Chamber hears from panel on drug crisis

By: Fred Pace

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. - West Virginia's drug epidemic comes up in nearly every conversation with the state's business community, according to the state's congressional delegation.

"If we can create a business climate that gives the hope of a good job, it may be one of our best hopes of battling the drug epidemic that is plaguing our state," said 3rd District U.S. Congressman Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., during a special panel presentation at the 80th annual Meeting and Business Summit of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs on Thursday.

"A good job solves a lot of problems," Jenkins said.

Joining Jenkins on the panel were 1st District Congressman David McKinley, R-W.Va., and 2nd District Congressman Alex Mooney, R-W.Va.

"More people die in this country from drug overdoses each year than died during the entire Vietnam War," McKinley said. "Americans consume 83 percent of the world's oxycodone and 99 percent of the world's hydrocodone. In America if we have a problem, we just take a pill."

McKinley said the supply source must be stopped.

"We continue to battle our own U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) that continues to increase the allowable uses of these pills," he said.

"I want the DEA to explain why they are increasing it when we have a national drug crisis. We have to get them to cut the supply chain."

Mooney said those in West Virginia's business community tell him they are having trouble finding workers who are not on drugs.

"We must get people to want to choose rehabilitation and treatment as an option," he said.

Mooney said the law enforcement community has told him that holding incarceration over the head of drug addicts is sometimes the only way to get them to choose rehab and treatment.

"When faced with jail time, they appear to always choose rehab and treatment," he said.

Mooney said, however, he is for the "all of the above" approach to the problem.

"Education, enforcement, early detection, drug courts, treatment and recovery all have to play a part in the solution," he said.

Jenkins said a national prescription database will also be a good tool for fighting the drug crisis.

"We now have something that pharmacists and doctors can use as a tool to help in the fight," he said.

Jenkins also spoke about several pieces of legislation passed to combat and help drug addiction, like the Nurturing and Supporting Healthy Babies Act and the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA).

"CARA is the first major federal addiction legislation in 40 years, and the most comprehensive effort undertaken to address the opioid epidemic, encompassing all six pillars necessary for such a coordinated response, including prevention, treatment, recovery, law enforcement, criminal justice reform and overdose reversal," Jenkins said.

Mooney said although there are differences of opinion on the issue, now is the time everyone must come together.

"We must all get past our differences to solve this problem," he said. "If we all work together, I believe we can see amazing results."