The struggle against substance abuse continues in West Virginia. As part of that struggle, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has announced that $1.3 million — money from a settlement with drug distributors that allegedly contributed to the state’s substance abuse problem — would be used to help fund projects assisting the victims of substance abuse.
“We now look at substance abuse as an illness, not a crime,” Tomblin said. “We have increased access to life-saving Narcan. We’ve expanded and improved treatment and recovery services. And we established West Virginia’s first-ever substance abuse help line, which has received more than 7,500 calls since it launched just over a year ago.
“This progress, and so much more, is making a difference for individuals, families, children and communities across the Mountain State.”
The funding announcement came earlier this month during a meeting with the Governor’s Advisory Council on Substance Abuse, which Tomblin formed in 2011.
Since its creation, the council has held 20 rounds of community meetings in six regions across the state, and has helped drive policy reforms to combat the substance abuse epidemic.
“When I established this advisory council, my vision was to create a community-driven approach to tackling our substance abuse epidemic,” Tomblin said. “By working from the ground up, we have been able to address needs in specific regions across our state while making broad, statewide reforms.”
Tomblin also said the state Department of Health and Human Resources has submitted a substance abuse disorder demonstration waiver to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
If approved, the waiver could improve the quality of care for patients with substance abuse disorders who are enrolled in Medicaid.
“Our work to bring more resources to West Virginia has not lessened, and we will continue bringing in everything we can to fuel our work to curb this far-reaching problem,” Tomblin said. “Together, we are giving West Virginians back their lives, their independence, their families — and their hope.”
There is a variety of substance abuse treatment options within the state.
One of these options is 844-HELP4WV, a number that can be called or texted 24 hours a day and put victims in contact with peer-support specialists and recovery coaches who are ready to help. The program is operated by 1st Choice Services.
Heather McDaniel, director of helpline services for 1st Choice, said callers could be connected with a variety of different treatment options.
“Whether a caller needs inpatient treatment or outpatient treatment, we can connect them with the service they need,” McDaniel said. “We also have certified navigators on staff who can help customers sign up for Medicaid while they’re on the phone, which can help pay for their treatment.”
McDaniel said the program is funded through a grant from the Department of Health and Human Services.
“We’re very lucky to have the support we do from the DHHR and from the governor’s office,” McDaniel said.
Substance abuse prevention services exist in all 55 counties in West Virginia. There are over 130 crisis detoxification beds in residential treatment facilities within the state, and additional sites are under development. An additional 118 beds are designated for short-term, postpartum, youth and long-term treatment, and nearly 700 beds are available to those seeking help and support at peer and provider recovery homes and facilities.
The West Virginia Division of Corrections offers several options within the prisons and jails of the state. In total, there are nine Residential Substance Abuse Treatment within that state that offer six-month to one year courses of inpatient treatment, with a total reach of 491 inmates. Both prisons and jails offer outpatient substance abuse counseling programs, including 12-step peer-to-peer programs and a 39-session program focusing on addiction education, transitional skills for recovery and relapse prevention.
The Department of Health and Human Resources oversees a pilot program that provides medication-assisted treatment for paroling or discharging inmates who have completed substance abuse programs and show motivation for continuing treatment. Debbie Hissom, director of inmate medical services at the Division of Corrections, said the program was voluntary and was available to any inmate who has been diagnosed with opiate or alcohol dependency.
“The program is a monthly injection of a medication called naltrexone, which is an opiate blocker,” Hissom said. “So if a patient were to use an opiate while they were on this medication, they wouldn’t experience the euphoria or the high associated with their usage. It’s also non-addictive and has been show to reduce cravings.”
Hissom said that for inmates who are interested in the program, the jail helps them to apply for Medicaid and then sets up their first appointment, where they receive the first injection free of charge.
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