Opioid epidemic must continue to be priority

Delegate Cindy Frich, 51st House District, Morgantown

The opioid epidemic in West Virginia is a public health crisis deserving the attention I and others have given it.

The Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) deputy secretary claims the opioid epidemic is causing the worst child welfare crisis since the Great Depression and is possibly worse because it is destroying families. Each child could cost the taxpayers $2 million and substance abuse is partially responsible for our low workforce participation and productivity.

Focused relentlessly on passing legislation and funding to grapple with this crisis, I sponsored at least half of the many bills that became law the past four years providing education, treatment and enhanced criminal penalties sending a message to drug kingpins. I have sponsored bills from prioritizing treatment for pregnant women, preventive education in public schools, increased treatment beds and increased penalties for using drugs around children and selling fentanyl.

I was lead sponsor of the law creating the Office of Drug Control Policy developing policy to educate, prevent and treat substance abuse and requiring data collection of overdoses to help strategic policy planning and assist in acquiring federal grants.

On House Finance Committee, I ensured funding availability for treatment and prevention, reorganized the prison system and provided significant pay increases for prison guards without raising taxes.

The Legislature and governor limited doctors’ painkiller prescriptions to seven days and emergency rooms to three days. We elevated alternative pain management such as physical therapy. We are one of the states that allows anyone to obtain naloxone without prescription to revive a loved one from an overdose.

This epidemic needs to end before more lives are destroyed and before there is a communicable disease outbreak that becomes unmanageable and directly impacts everyone.

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