Drug Overdose

On The Legislature Today, we bring you a special focus on West Virginia’s opioid epidemic. First, we take you to the small town of Kermit where the tragic toll of the epidemic has weighed heavily on residents, and then, host Andrea Lannom chats with two lawmakers who outline legislation addressing the issue on multiple fronts.

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Updated Friday January 12 at 4:18 p.m.

State health officials are proposing a multifaceted plan for confronting the drug crisis killing hundreds of West Virginians each year, one that would require action by everyone from lawmakers to doctors to judges to emergency responders to the general public.

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A West Virginia University researcher says the official U.S. suicide rate, which rose 34 percent from 2000 to 2016, fails to include many people who kill themselves purposely with drugs.

Opioids
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A federal judge on Tuesday likened the nation's opioid epidemic to the deadly 1918 flu pandemic while noting the drug crisis is "100 percent manmade."

Judge Dan Polster urged participants on all sides of lawsuits against drugmakers and distributors to work toward a common goal of reducing overdose deaths. He said the issue has come to courts because "other branches of government have punted" it.

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The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources announced Thursday steps for an opioid response plan to combat the opioid epidemic. DHHR is asking West Virginians to help develop the plan through public comment and recommendations over the next 15 days.

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Jim Johnson has been named director of the West Virginia's new Office of Drug Control Policy.

Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Bill Crouch announced Johnson's appointment Thursday.

Will Price / West Virginia Legislative Photography

House Bill 2620, creating the West Virginia Drug Overdose Monitoring Act, would provide an office to gather data about the drug epidemic in West Virginia. Senate Judiciary Chair Charles Trump called that office a “hub.”

This would be a tool for the state to track concerns over drug abuse and overdoses throughout the state, as well as connect with other states to determine how they deal with similar concerns. Sen. Mike Woelfel said it is time for the Legislature to solve the problem.

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Senators are considering amendments to a bill that would make it illegal to manufacture and distribute fentanyl in West Virginia, adding it to the state’s list of schedule one drugs.

One Senator, however, thinks the bill may prohibit doctors from prescribing the drug for terminally ill patients, which caused some delay to consideration Friday.

Phil Isner
Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

The West Virginia House of Delegates has passed a bill that will encourage the creation of substance abuse treatment facilities in the state.

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The number of reported overdose deaths that occurred last year in West Virginia has continued to rise.

Citing data released Wednesday, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reports that at least 844 people died in the state of drug overdoses in 2016.

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Ohio County sheriff's deputies are soon going to start carrying antidotes for opioid overdoses.

WTRF-TV reports that the Ohio County commission on Tuesday announced their approval for deputies to carry Naloxone, which reverses the symptoms of an opioid overdose.

Isaac Sponaugle
Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Members in the House of Delegates have considered a number of bills this legislative session that increase the penalties for breaking various laws. At least three of those bills have focused on drug crimes which Republican lawmakers say is in response to the state’s substance abuse epidemic.

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Fatal drug overdoses in West Virginia continued to rise last year, as its overdose death rate still far outpaces any other state.

Citing a Feb. 13 analysis by the West Virginia Health Statistics Center, The Register-Herald reports that at least 818 people in the state died of drug overdoses in 2016 — four times the number that occurred in 2001 and a nearly 13 percent increase over last year.

While millions of addictive pain pills flooded West Virginia, a generation of Appalachians grew up with a parent addicted or abusing drugs. Hear some of their stories on this week's classic episode of Inside Appalachia.

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A National Weather Service meteorologist called it a "1-in-1,000-year" storm. By the time it was over, 23 West Virginians were dead.

Flooding that ravaged the state in late June was voted the No. 1 news story in 2016 in West Virginia by Associated Press member newspapers and broadcasters.

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An Ohio man was accused of distributing an elephant sedative to people, which, according to federal prosecutors, resulted in about two dozen overdoses in a West Virginia city.

On Monday, prosecutors charged 22-year-old Bruce Lamar Griggs of Akron, Ohio, with distributing carfentanil and fentanyl, local news organizations reported.

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Kristina “Breezy” Weaver  lives in Wyoming County, which has one of the highest drug overdose death rates in a state that leads the country in drug overdose deaths. Last June, Weaver’s father died of a heroin overdose.

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For a generation of Appalachians, growing up with a parent addicted or abusing drugs is a way of life. On this week’s episode of Inside Appalachia, we hear from men and women who have experienced the effects of opioid addiction and of the innocence that this epidemic has claimed.

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The sound of sirens in Cabell County, West Virginia, has a good chance of indicating an overdose these days.

The county’s Emergency Medical Service had responded to 622 overdose calls this year as of September 24, according to ES Director Gordon Merry. Last year it was more than 900 overdoses, which surpassed the total of the previous three years combined.

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The West Virginia Board of Education approved a policy last week allowing county school systems across the state to start stocking Naloxone—a medicine that reverses the effects of a drug overdose—in schools.

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