Trying again on drug abuse crisis
Gov. Jim Justice had it right Monday in announcing a new campaign against drug abuse in West Virginia.
During a visit to Huntington, which seems to have had some success in battling substance abuse, Justice announced a new executive director of the state Office of Drug Control Policy. He is Bob Hansen, who has been Marshall University’s director of addiction studies.
Give Justice credit for not doing things halfway. He also has issued an executive order creating the Council on Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment. It will be chaired by Brian Gallagher, also of Marshall. Gallagher is a pharmacist, lawyer and former state legislator.
Justice’s plan is for the office and the council to work together to help local communities battle the drug crisis. Huntington’s campaign reportedly is being considered as a template for statewide use.
A new emphasis on substance abuse certainly is timely. During the weekend, another analysis of the epidemic nationwide — with a focus on West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania — was released. It came from the Trust for America’s Health and the Well Being Trust.
Using previously revealed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the two nonprofit organizations noted that in 2017, for the third consecutive year, life expectancy in this country decreased. Fatalities due to drug overdoses and suicides linked to substance abuse played a role.
And, the new study noted, the tri-state area is ground zero in the epidemic. Once again last year, West Virginia had the highest drug overdose death rate in the nation, by far. It was 57.8 fatalities per 100,000 residents. Ohio was No. 2 at 46.3, with Pennsylvania third at 44.3.
Obviously, then, this is an emergency requiring decisive action. But you knew that.
Justice is right to attempt to take such action. But his is not the first attempt to turn back the tide of death and misery.
His attitude toward the new initiative makes it clear the governor is fully aware of the potential his action will not end the crisis. “I don’t know if this next step will fix it, but if it won’t, then we need to do the next and the next and the next,” Justice said Monday.