First lady Melania Trump in West Virginia for opioid talk

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West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, left, first lady Melania Trump, center, and Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan, right, listen as Huntington Police Chief Hank Dial, foreground, speaks during a roundtable on the opioid epidemic at Cabell-Huntington Health Center in Huntington, WVa., Monday, July 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) — First lady Melania Trump visited West Virginia on Monday to learn how a city at the center of the nation’s opioid epidemic is grappling with the crisis.

She met with federal, state and local officials in Huntington and heard how the area’s police, schools and health care centers are trying to fight the opioid scourge.

“I am here to give you my support,” Trump told participants in the roundtable discussion.

West Virginia has the country’s highest fatal opioid overdose rate and has struggled, like many other states, to confront the many aspects of the problem. Huntington Mayor Steve Williams characterized it as a grim task.

“If not another gram of heroin is distributed, if not another gram of heroin is sold, we will be dealing with this issue for the next four or five decades,” he said.

The first lady asked how the crisis is hurting children and was told about research on babies born addicted to opioids and about addicted teens who need a different system of care. U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin described the challenges that arise when kids are taken from addicted parents and placed into foster care.

The first lady also spoke separately with a small group that included the city’s fire chief and the head of a medical center that specializes in caring for babies born addicted to drugs.

“We are looking forward to working on the problems West Virginia is facing with the opioid crisis,” she told them.

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