Associated Press Published

Help for Drug-Ravaged W.Va. in Bill Passed by House

The number of beds available at state-run substance abuse treatment facilities would increase in drug-ravaged West Virginia under a bill passed Wednesday by the House.

The bill passed on a 99-0 vote. It now moves to the state Senate.

West Virginia currently has more than 1,100 treatment beds, but struggles to meet demand. The state has the nation’s highest drug overdose death rate by far, with 41.5 deaths per 100,000 people, compared to a national average of 16.3.

The measure would allow the Department of Health and Human Resources to build a new facility or enter into an agreement with a private entity.

Funding would come from settlements of multiple lawsuits that accused wholesale drug distributors of flooding the state with prescription pain pills. In one lawsuit, AmerisourceBergen and Cardinal Health agreed in January to pay the state a combined $36 million.

The bill also allows for other funding sources.

A Charleston Gazette-Mail investigation found drug wholesalers shipped 780 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills to West Virginia in six years, a period when 1,728 people statewide fatally overdosed.