U.S. Congressman Evan Jenkins visited Thomas Memorial Hospital in South Charleston today to hold a roundtable with local experts about how best to address addiction and neonatal abstinence syndrome.
The roundtable was attended by about 20 health workers and community members, most of whom deal with addiction, including neonatal abstinence syndrome on an almost daily basis.
“The disease, yes disease of addiction is our most challenging public health and safety issue of our time,” Jenkins said during an opening statement.
Jenkins said roundtables like this one help him identify the most pressing needs and challenges facing people who are actively dealing with the crisis.
“All of us see some patients with opioid addiction,” said obstetrician Bassam Shamma during the meeting.
“I mean it’s definitely getting worse, hepatitis C is getting really bad in this state,” he said. “I mean we’re screening everybody, all the OBs are screening everybody and we have new diagnosis on an almost monthly basis.”
Shamma said one thing that hospitals and doctors need is better reimbursements so they can take care of the patients that need medication assisted treatment and other resources that can be expensive to provide.
But it’s not just hospitals and doctors that are struggling.
Monica Mason is the Director of Community Paramedic for the Kanawha County Ambulance Authority. She said now, 75 percent of their medication budget, or around 60,000, goes to buying the overdose reversal drug Narcan.
She said the issue is not just the financial burden, but that sometimes it can be hard to actually access a big enough supply for the demand.
After the roundtable Jenkins told reporters he's committed to developing health policy that will take concerns brought by Mason and Shamma into account.
Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, with support from the Benedum Foundation, Charleston Area Medical Center and WVU Medicine.