Opioid Abuse

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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Health officials in West Virginia say a plan to combat the state's opioid crisis has been released for public comment.

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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.

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  Imagine living and working somewhere designed to fit a couple hundred people. Now picture that same space crammed with twice that number. Madison County, Kentucky, Jailer Doug Thomas doesn’t have to imagine it. He lives it.

“I’m doing all that I can with what I have to work with, which is not a lot,” he said. “Because we’re a 184 bed facility with almost 400 people.”

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The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency is targeting opioid abuse in Appalachia by establishing a new field office in Kentucky to oversee a region ravaged by overdose deaths.

The new Louisville field office will have a special agent in charge to oversee investigations in Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia.

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Updated on Friday, November 3 at 2:39 p.m.

West Virginia police say lab results on a substance found in a child's trick-or-treat bag came back as a derivative of marijuana, not heroin as originally thought.

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At the Epsworth United Methodist Church in Ripley, West Virginia, five grandparents sit around a table listening to a speaker tell them, “You are not alone.”

 

 

Although prayer is mentioned frequently at the meeting, religion is not the subject of today’s conversation - rather, how to communicate with grandchildren after grandparents are thrust into the role of primary caregivers.

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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Friday it will award $144 million in grants across the country to prevent and treat opioid addiction. But West Virginia won’t see any of it.

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Over $1 million in federal funding has been awarded to a project aimed at addressing the opioid crisis in West Virginia.

The project is based in southern West Virginia, and it’s spearheaded by West Virginia University. The goal is to develop comprehensive ways to prevent and treat the consequences of opioid abuse, such as overdose, HIV, hepatitis, and sexually transmitted diseases.

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U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions highlighted the importance of prevention at a stop in Charleston Thursday before a summit on the opioid epidemic. 

Sessions gave the opening remarks at the West Virginia Opioid Summit at the University of Charleston Thursday morning. 

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting


West Virginia’s opioid overdose death rate is two and a half times the national average, the highest in the country. Last year, 864 West Virginians died from an overdose, up by more than 17 percent from the year prior.

 

West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Sec. Bill Crouch shared those statistics at a press conference Tuesday. Crouch hosted U.S. Health and Human Services Sec. Tom Price for a closed-door meeting about the state’s struggle with substance abuse and what the federal government can do to help.

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With more than 30,000 West Virginians already in drug treatment, lawmakers have voted to spend $24 million from recent court settlements with opioid distributors increase inpatient beds to help address the state's addiction crisis.

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Yesterday the Congressional Budget Office released a report that analyzes the House of Representative's proposed replacement of the Affordable Care Act. The office projects that the new bill would leave 24 million people uninsured by 2026.

Such an increase could have big consequences for the more than 2 million people addicted to pain medication across the United States, including more than 200,000 in the Ohio Valley Region. 

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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.

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More than 22,000 West Virginians with substance use disorders have gained health coverage through Medicaid Expansion, according to a report released earlier this month in National Health Law Program. Medicaid Expansion was a voluntary provision of the Affordable Care Act.

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A southern West Virginia town has joined other communities in seeking to recoup the costs of dealing with opioid abuse.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports the McDowell County town of Welch filed a lawsuit Monday against several out-of-state drug distributors.

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Two West Virginia towns seeking to recoup the costs of dealing with opioid abuse are suing out-of-state drug distributors.

The separate lawsuits seeking unspecified damages were filed by the Mingo County community of Kermit and the Nicholas County town of Richwood.

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A West Virginia Board of Pharmacy report says a prescription drug used to treat nerve pain is contributing to a sharp increase of overdose deaths in the state.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports the number of fatal overdoses involving gabapentin in West Virginia jumped from three in 2010 to 109 in 2015. The number of 2016 deaths are still being counted.

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A recent study published in the international pain journal PAIN has found that patients with pre-existing psychiatric and behavioral conditions may be more likely to use opioids later in life.

Researchers used a national insurance database to identify 10.3 million patents who filed insurance claims for opioid prescriptions over a nine-year period. Researchers wanted to see if pre-existing psychiatric conditions and use of psychoactive medications were predictors of later opioid use.

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