Executive Intelligence Review


Drug Crisis in West Virginia Costs Lives, with Losses up to 12% of State GDP

May 24, 2018 (EIRNS)—The West Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Services Bill Crouch briefed the state legislature May 21 on the terrible impact of the drug crisis in the state. He told the Joint Standing Committee on Finance, that West Virginia loses $8.8 billion a year from the scourge, which at 12% of the state GDP, ranks the state worst in the nation by this measure. Ohio is the next closest state, with losses amounting to 5.32% of state GDP. The economies of these adjacent states have been smashed in terms of the destruction of coal mining, manufacturing, and related activity in the deindustrialized Great Lakes/Ohio Valley region.

Crouch went into the awful social cost. The impact on children is “stunning,” he said. Per capita, West Virginia removes more children from their homes than any other state. Of these, 84% must go to foster care, because one or both parents have a drug or alcohol problem.

The number of overdose deaths is soaring, going from 735 in 2015, to 887 in 2016, and 934 in 2017 (a preliminary figure).

Crouch reported how state programs help, such as providing emergency response measures, and adding beds to treatment centers. But the import of his briefing is that what must be fixed is the economic breakdown, and lack of livelihoods and a future for people.

In the protocol for equipping first responders to overdose cases with the antidote naloxone, more than 34,000 doses (2 mg) have been distributed to Emergency Medical Staff. This standby medication is concentrated in eight priority counties in the state, where drugs are the worst. Of these, two are in former deep coal country—Mercer and Raleigh; and four border western Pennsylvania, also in crisis.

The state also operates many other programs, from recovery residences, to a “Drug Free Moms and Babies” project. There are 12 counties targeted as high risk, where programs try to counter underage drinking and prescription drug misuse.