From The Times West Virginian of Fairmont:
The numbers are frightful.

Nowhere in the United States are they worse than in West Virginia.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioid overdose deaths in 2015 killed West Virginians at the rate of 41.5 per 100,000 residents.

2016 numbers are reported to be even worse.

Nationally, overdose deaths from opioids have quadrupled since 2000, totaling more than 33,000 deaths in the United States in 2015.

Let’s look at the statistics another way.

President Donald Trump’s drug commission, led by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, released an initial report that says the approximately 142 deaths each day from drug overdoses mean the death toll is “equal to Sept. 11 every three weeks.”

The commission recently called on the president to declare a national emergency to deal with the opioid crisis.

The Associated Press reported that Trump did address the opioid epidemic Tuesday during his working vacation at his private golf course in central New Jersey, pledging that “I have had the opportunity to hear from many on the front lines of the opioid epidemic, and I’m confident that by working with our health-care and law-enforcement experts we will fight this deadly epidemic and the United States will win.”

The president stressed the role of law enforcement.

He said federal drug prosecutions have dropped but promised he would “be bringing them up rapidly.”

He also said, “We’re very, very tough on the southern border, where much of this comes in.”

The president stressed that “strong law enforcement is absolutely vital to having a drug-free society.”

True, law enforcement is important, but it is only part of what is so badly needed.

West Virginia University officials noted Tuesday that In November 2015, WVU Health Sciences Vice President Clay Marsh convened the Substance Abuse Task Force “to facilitate cross-disciplinary efforts and to develop and sustain approaches to clinical care, education, training, research, outreach and data collection.”

Marsh said, “It’s becoming clear that the opioid epidemic and the chronic health problems we encounter in West Virginia and beyond are symptoms of a deeper problem. We need to address the root issues that drive the epidemic: a breakdown in communities’ and families’ ability to establish the connections to others that provide love and safety, purpose and a mindset of abundance and gratitude. The answer to addiction and chronic health problems may be found among our best friends and colleagues, our families, our communities and our struggles.”

Dr. James H. Berry, Chestnut Ridge Center medical director, noted the state is “woefully unequipped” for the opioid battle and that “WVU has made it a priority to train primary care providers in the effective use of medication-assisted therapies.”

Pain management is often a way the addiction begins.

“We have integrated the CDC’s opioid-prescribing guidelines into our School of Medicine and inter-professional education programs across WVU Health Sciences,” Dr. Jeffrey Coben, dean of the WVU School of Public Health, said.

“Our School of Pharmacy is managing the Medicaid Rational Drug Therapy program, with a strong emphasis on opioid prescribing to assist practitioners and ensure safe, cost-effective drug therapy for patients. WVU also is home to a new pain-management clinic focused on alternative therapies and a new Addiction Fellowship program that trains care givers. In addition, the School of Public Health and WVU’s CDC-sponsored Injury Control Research Center are collaborating with state agencies and federal partners on a variety of initiatives, including a prescription drug monitoring program, enhanced surveillance project, and a wide-reaching intranasal naloxone distribution and training effort in which 8,000 life-saving kits have been provided to groups across the state.”

On still another stage, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey was in Fairmont Tuesday with the program Combating Addiction with Grace, targeted toward pastors, church leaders and faith-based addiction counselors in an effort to educate them on the tools and resources available to them.

“I know of no other issue in the state of West Virginia that has more importance right now than fighting substance abuse,” Morrisey said.

It’s life-and-death a battle going on at so many levels — none of which can be ignored.