Jack Walker Published

W.Va. Ranks Among Best At Connecting Residents With Substance Use Treatment

An empty hospital corridor or hallway. Medical concept. Hospital corridor with rooms. 3d illustration.
52.1 percent of West Virginians with documented cases of substance or alcohol use disorder initiated and received medical treatment in 2023.
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In 2023, West Virginia was one of the most effective states at connecting residents with substance or alcohol use disorders to treatment, according to federal health officials.

At 52.1 percent, West Virginia had the fourth highest percentage of individuals with substance or alcohol dependencies who began and received treatment last year out of 45 participating states and U.S. territories.

This data was compiled by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the agency that oversees federal healthcare systems. Each year, the agency aggregates data on a variety of state-level health resources and outcomes.

Treatments for substance use disorders include medication, counseling, rehabilitation services and behavioral health resources, according to a Wednesday press release from the West Virginia Department of Human Services (DoHS).

“Our commitment to providing diverse and effective treatment options is reflected in the improved outcomes we have achieved,” said Cindy Beane, commissioner of the DoHS Bureau for Medical Services, in the press release.

“West Virginia’s commitment to providing evidence-based practices is being recognized nationally and modeled in other states,” she said.

The DoHS credits the state’s strong CMS score to an increase in substance use disorder treatments offered to West Virginia Medicaid members.

This followed the 2017 implementation of substance use disorder waivers for Medicaid users with substance dependencies, which allowed them to access free treatments.

“Overcoming a substance use disorder is not as simple as resisting the temptation to take drugs,” said Christina Mullins, DoHS deputy secretary of mental health and substance use disorders, said in the press release.

“Like many other chronic conditions, effective treatment options are available for SUD,” she said. “While no single treatment method is right for everyone, recovery is possible, and help is available.”

As of November 2023, 34 states and the District of Columbia offered similar waivers for residents with substance use disorders.

At a press briefing Wednesday, Gov. Jim Justice thanked DoHS staff for supporting substance use disorder treatments across the state. He also emphasized his ongoing investment in programs addressing substance use disorders in West Virginia.

“We’re making a dent. We’ve got a long way to go,” he said. “There are a lot of folks that are taking advantage and getting some real help, and getting their lives turned and going in the right direction.”

“We’re making a difference,” Justice continued.