W.Va.’s Opioid Epidemic Draws Federal Funds

Aug 31, 2016

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Additional federal dollars are coming to West Virginia to help combat the state’s opioid epidemic. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' announcement was used to mark national Overdose Awareness Day.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will award $53 million to 44 states, four tribes, and the District of Columbia. The money will help ensure health care professionals have the right tools and training to avoid over-prescribing opioids and to educate their patients about the risks. It will also expand access to naloxone for first responders, a drug that can reverse the effects of an overdose, and the funds will also support treatment facilities.

On the call, Huntington Mayor Steve Williams said, just last week 26 people overdosed in his city within a 24 hour period. Two of those 26 died, and Williams says access to care is a major problem.

“In West Virginia alone, we only have 28 detox beds in the entire state of West Virginia," Williams said, "Eight detox beds just in my home county, in Cabell County, West Virginia. That one evening, when we had 26 overdoses, we didn’t have enough beds available in the entire state if every person had come and said, I want help.”

Williams and officials with HSS are hopeful Congress will sign-off on President Obama’s proposal to allocate an additional $1.1 billion toward combatting the nation’s drug epidemic.

Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, with support from the Benedum Foundation.