WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, today praised President Donald Trump for declaring a public health emergency to address the opioid crisis.
Speaker Armstead was one of several West Virginia representatives invited to the White House today to attend the President’s announcement.
“I commend President Trump for taking this action today to declare the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency,” Speaker Armstead said. “This is a crisis that has hurt far too many families and taken too many lives in our state, and I’m grateful the President is taking aggressive action to address it.”
The declaration of a public health emergency will allow the Trump administration to divert additional federal resources toward combating the epidemic. It will allow for expanded access to telemedicine services, including services involving remote prescribing of medicine commonly used for substance abuse or mental health treatment. It will also allow the federal Department of Labor to issue dislocated worker grants to help those who have been displaced from the workforce because of the opioid crisis.
“There’s not a person in West Virginia who hasn’t been affected by this epidemic, by either knowing someone who’s been addicted or being addicted themselves,” Speaker Armstead said. “This administration, including First Lady Melania Trump, has visited our state multiple times and seen firsthand the toll this crisis has taken on our people. It’s going to take a massive, collaborative effort to turn the tide against this epidemic, and I’m hopeful today’s declaration will be a turning point in this process.”
West Virginia lawmakers have worked in a bipartisan fashion in recent years to address the opioid problem at the state level.
In 2016, the House of Delegates created the Select Committee on Prevention and Treatment of Substance Abuse to focus on ways to combat substance abuse and improve and implement prevention and treatment programs.
“In the past two years, we’ve worked to address our state’s substance abuse problem using a three-pronged approach: treatment, education and criminal prosecution,” Speaker Armstead said.
One of the most significant bills to address this problem was House Bill 2428, which passed earlier this year and directed $22 million to help create new treatment facilities and beds for people who need help in treating their addiction.
The bill created the Ryan Brown Addiction Prevention and Recovery Fund, in memory of a victim of substance abuse whose parents have advocated for additional treatment facilities. In addition to state dollars, this fund can also receive grants and private donations to add more treatment options across the state. Brown’s parents, Cece and Bobby, were invited to today’s event and stood on stage with the President as he made the emergency declaration announcement.
Lawmakers worked to improve education on substance abuse issues this year with House Bill 2195, which requires that by no later than the start of the 2018-2019 school year, county school boards will implement comprehensive drug awareness and prevention programs for students in grades K through 12 to receive instruction regarding the dangers of substance abuse.
The Legislature has also recently passed bills that target drug traffickers and better protect our citizens by increasing penalties for transporting controlled substances across state lines, increasing penalties for production of and possession with intent to deliver fentanyl and carfentanil, and creating new criminal offenses for delivering substances that cause overdoses or for causing someone’s death by failing to render aid.
The Legislature this year also passed House Bill 2509, which expanded the practice of tele-medicine in the state.
Other bills passed in recent years address the opioid crisis include: