Drug abuse, job creation focus of Shepherd forum
SHEPHERDSTOWN, W. Va. — Every day in America, 142 people die from drug overdoses. Or as one of the five participants in a panel discussion Monday at Shepherd University said, more people die in one year from overdoses than all those killed in the Vietnam War.
“The opioid problem is an epidemic that affects us all,” said Lt. Col Ad Godinez, a West Point graduate who works in the National Drug Control Policy Office at the White House.
“They are exceptionally talented businessmen who know how to sell on the U.S. market. People who use these drugs don’t even know what’s in them.”
“Why are so many people self-medicating at a rate never seen before? This is an American problem, and we need to face it."
The opioid epidemic is the most important health issue in West Virginia, surpassing obesity, cancer and heart disease, according to a public opinion survey commissioned by ResearchAmerica.
“West Virginia is grappling with a public health crisis that requires increased support for research and innovative solutions to revitalize communities hit hard by the epidemic,” said Mary Woolley, president and CEO of ResearchAmerica, one of Monday’s five panelists.
U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., also spoke at the forum.
According to the Associated Press, West Virginia led the country with 818 deaths from drug overdoses in 2016. Manchin said 86 percent were caused by opioids.
“How did we get to this level?” he said. “Why didn’t we see this?”
Manchin said he and Capito supported a bill to eliminate the practice by doctors of prescribing painkillers for up to 90 days in favor of a 30-day limit that could prevent addiction.
Capito said West Virginia needs to be more involved in research and innovation to attract more federal agencies and large businesses to look at the state and its colleges and universities.