Substance abuse is a crisis both in West Virginia and across America. Recent information shows drug overdoses now kill more West Virginians than car accidents. Drugs are the leading cause of accidental deaths in our state, and we have the nation’s highest rate of drug deaths. Even more alarming, 9 out of 10 of our overdose deaths involve at least one prescription drug. Drug abuse in our state is a pervasive problem with tragic consequences. It shatters families and erodes our communities. I have made addressing this issue one of my top priorities, and I’m proud to report we are making significant progress.
Since becoming governor, I’ve traveled to towns and cities throughout the state to see the problem firsthand. I’ve met with citizens, doctors, law enforcement officers, and former drug users. I want to thank the 1,700 West Virginians who attended the roundtable discussions-the information you provided was extremely valuable. After the discussions, I established six regional task forces and a statewide advisory council to help me create a plan for our state to tackle this growing problem.
This week, I was able to announce one of the first steps in our statewide plan to rid our communities of drugs. Our regional task forces and the advisory council have recommended additional treatment programs, and with the support of the legislature, I am making $7.5 million available to expand and establish substance abuse services in the state. This money will directly help West Virginians in need by providing treatment centers for those affected.
I’ve outlined specific focuses for each of our state’s six regions based on the analysis done by our task forces and advisory council. For instance, in Raleigh County, my plan calls on the private sector to bid for these funds in order to establish a detoxification and stabilization unit, as well as screening, brief intervention and referral to treatment services. Across the state, we will be soliciting similar bids for women’s treatment and recovery facilities, child and adolescent treatment facilities, recovery coaches, and expand outpatient services.
I encourage all substance abuse service providers to look at the recommendations and apply for these funds. I want to thank each regional task force member and my Advisory Council on Substance Abuse, as well as every West Virginian who attended regional and local meetings this past year and developed this plan of action.
We are making great progress, but there is still work to be done. I hope you will join me as we continue to work together to rid our communities of the heartbreaking consequences of substance abuse.