Ihlenfeld: W.Va missing out on opioid funds

WHEELING — William Ihlenfeld says he made past West Virginia officials aware of federal dollars available to fight the state’s growing opioid epidemic when he was U.S. attorney, but they weren’t interested at that time.

“I was told at the end of the day, ‘We don’t need your help. Thanks, but no thanks,'” Ihlenfeld said. “I can’t tell you how many opportunities we missed to go out and get federal dollars to bring back here. I talk about the money we did bring, but there were so many other opportunities that we missed. They’re still there. There are federal dollars available, and we need to do a better job going out and getting it.”

Now the Democratic nominee for the West Virginia Senate 1st District seat, Ihlenfeld spoke of the state’s opioid issues as he addressed a meeting of the Ohio County Democratic Women’s Club in Wheeling this week. The event took place at the First State Capitol Building in Wheeling.

Ihlenfeld said his campaign is focusing on three key issues, with opioid addiction being the first priority. The next is “putting West Virginia first” and addressing the needs faced by working families, teachers and organized labor.

“I don’t think we’ve done a good job over the years negotiating deals for the state of West Virginia,” he said. “We have been taken advantage of during our history. I think executives in New York City, Texas or Oklahoma only are worried about their bottom line. They aren’t worried about us. They are not worried about what West Virginia is going to look like when all of this energy development is over.

“We need to do a better job of standing up for ourselves and negotiating deals that benefit the state, benefit landowners, and put West Virginia first.”

Thirdly, he wants to eliminate what he sees as unethical behavior and practices in government.

“There continue to be a lot of problems in government, and a lot of self-help going on by legislators in Charleston,” he said. “They tend to help themselves and don’t necessarily put West Virginia first.”

Ihlenfeld said a statute exists that allows state legislators to benefit from state contracts.

“It was brought to my attention, and I was shocked,” he said. “You don’t go to Charleston to put money in your own pocket. You go there to help your constituents. That whole culture needs to change.”

Ihlenfeld faces Senate Majority Leader Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio, in the Nov. 6 general election.

(King can be contacted at jking@theintelligencer.net)