CHARLESTON, W. Va. (WDVM) — The state of West Virginia has the highest opioid related overdose death rate in the country and on Friday, August 28th, Senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito announced a multi-million dollar grant to aid the ongoing crisis. Monday, August 31st, is International Opioid Overdose Awareness Day which aims to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of drug-related death.
Senator Manchin stressed that there is an ongoing war against the opioid crisis in his state but he hopes that this funding is a step in the right direction.
The state will be receiving almost $44 million dollars through the United States Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
This funding will used for the State Opioid Response and Tribal Opioid Response grant programs. These grants work to provide resources such as education and prevention, treatment, and recovery services.
Senator Manchin stated that funding to combat this crisis must be based on overdose rate not population as it has been in years past. The funding amount for each state is determined by several factors, including mortality rates, which is a change resulting from a bipartisan Opioid Funding Formula Bill that Senator Capito authored and introduced with Senator Shaheen from New Hampshire in 2017.
Since 2018, funding has included a 15% set aside for the states with the highest overdose death rates as a result of Capito’s bipartisan bill. This new round of State Opioid Response grants have been expanded to address stimulant misuse and use disorders, including for cocaine and methamphetamine.
Senator Capito stated that it is a priority to secure funding for states like West Virginia that are hit hardest by the drug crisis.
“The opioid crisis has affected lives and communities across the country, but some states—including West Virginia—have been hit harder than others. Through my work on the Appropriations Committee, I’ve worked hard to make sure West Virginia receives the support necessary to combat this crisis.”Senator Capito
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, West Virginia had 42.4 opioid-involved overdose deaths per every 100,000 people as of 2018. The 2018 study also stated that for every 100 people in the state, 69.3 have opioid prescriptions. In 2019, there were 70,980 reported deaths from overdoses, passing the high of 70,699 deaths in 2017, with West Virginia having the highest rates of death due to drug overdose.
Senator Manchin stated that big pharma companies and drug distributors are likely the cause of the opioid crisis in his state. He highlighted that many medical professionals pushed opioids to residents who experience pain from manual labour jobs which are common in the Mountain State.
“They took advantage of a state that has a lot of hard workers. They were going to doctors for pain, for injuries from working in the mines and factories, and they preyed on them.”Senator Manchin
Senator Manchin has been working since 2004 to combat the crisis before being elected governor in 2005. Since accepting his senatorial role in 2010, Manchin has pushed for many bipartisan and bicameral legislation to bring more awareness and funding to fight the crisis.
“There’s not a person in West Virginia that has not been affected and when I say that, everybody that I’ve ever spoken to in my state knows somebody in their immediate family, extended family, or a friend that’s been ravished by this addiction.Senator Manchin
Senator Capito highlighted that the funds will “be essential to help resume the progress we have made and continue to expand, while also strengthening our efforts to curb this epidemic.” Capito also stressed that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated opioid related issues.
“These resources are a critical component to support those suffering from addiction. Especially during the challenging and uncertain times like these, we must be there for our communities and our neighbors.”Senator Capito
Senator Manchin also stated that this funding will be used to aid treatment resources throughout the state but residents needs more centers.
In 2019, Senator Manchin secured funding for the Mountain state in the Fiscal Year 2020 Appropriations package which brought $3.8 billion dollars to combat the opioid epidemic, including $518 million through the Department of Justice, $402 million through the Department of Veterans Affairs, and $25 million from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
In 2018, Senator Capito secured funding to combat the opioid crisis through the Fiscal Year 2018 omnibus government funding bill passed by Congress and signed by President Trump in March. Senator Capito’s input to the bill secured crucial funds and made West Virginia eligible for nearly $28 million of those funds, a larger portion than the state would have been eligible for had she not secured that language.