More state and federal support for medical and health research could help solve West Virginia’s opioid crisis and reposition the state as a research leader, according to panelists at Research!America’s program “West Virginia Research and Innovation: A Catalyst for Better Health and Economic Growth” on October 16 at Shepherd University.
“If we’re going to talk about the opioid and drug abuse issue where we are ground central, why shouldn’t our universities be at the leading edge of providing that expertise in research and technology?” said Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.).
A strong majority of West Virginians agree that federal taxpayer funds should be used to support scientific research at public universities (77%), and that the state and federal government should assign a higher priority to improving science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers (85%).
Brad Fenwick, Ph.D., senior VP, global strategic alliances, Elsevier, said that in order to attract more public and private-sector research investments, West Virginia must inform outsiders about its research strengths, noting that the state is a world scientific leader in nanotubes, carbon and nanostructures.
“If you’re a company working in [nanotubes, carbon and nanostructures], and you’re looking for expertise or a place to locate your research or somebody to collaborate with, if they don’t know West Virginia and these researchers are that strong, they’ll go to the usual suspects. They’ll show up at Stanford or MIT and miss the opportunity of working with West Virginia,” Fenwick said.
Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said bipartisanship in Congress is key to successfully tackling the opioid epidemic, and doing so will help ensure that jobs created from increased public and private sector investments can be adequately staffed. “Every job fair we had over 100 employers looking to hire, but everybody walks away not finding the people they need,” Sen. Manchin said. “There are three things keeping you out of the workforce: addiction, conviction or lack of skill set.”
Earlier this year, Sens. Manchin and Capito re-introduced “Jessie’s Law,” legislation to help inform medical professionals of patients’ previous opioid addiction.
Click here to watch a recording of the event.