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Advocates: Declare opioid abuse issue a national emergency


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WILLIAMSON, W.Va. — Some of the people working the front lines against the drug epidemic in Mingo County said they want the White House to declare opioid addiction a national emergency.

In August, President Donald Trump said he would declare a state of national emergency in response to the country’s opioid crisis, a move that would give the federal government more power to combat addiction and overdoses.

So, far Trump has not made a formal declaration.

Mingo County has the fourth-highest overdose rate of any county in the nation.

For Josh Murphy, making the opioid crisis a national priority would help break down stigmas and open up more possibilities for Mingo County to address the problem.

Murphy is the prevention coordinator for the STOP Coalition, a grant-funded organization that works with children and young adults to stop the cycle of addiction in Mingo.

For this, he works first-hand with the next generation of Mingo residents.

“To hear a child tell you about a time they had to wake up their mom or dad – that’s heartbreaking,” Murphy said.

Prevention education would be nonexistent if it weren’t for federal backing.

“This is about maintaining the future and fixing our generation now,” he said.

If the White House declared a national state of emergency, along with a national health crisis, then the administration would have more powers to create additional drug treatment programs, make overdose-reversing drugs more available and waive healthcare regulations.

Any moves to fight the opioid epidemic would be welcome, said Angie Sparks, executive director of the STOP Coalition and the Crossroads recovery shelter. The demand for drug treatment services is only expected to rise.

The Crossroads facility holds 20 beds and is a long-term treatment home for women.

“We always have a waiting list,” she said.

Mingo County is dealing with more and more babies being born to mothers who have used illicit substances, and the county’s services are being overrun. What’s more, she said, families are being torn apart by the epidemic. There are not a lot of facilities that allow parents to be with their children.

“We have more grandparents raising their grandchildren than ever before,” Sparks said.

At the Anchor Point treatment facility in Delbarton, there is always a month-long waiting list to get one of the 24 beds. The program treats 12 men and 12 women in separate facilities for short-term treatment.

A majority of the people the facility sees are being are being treated with insurance covered by the Affordable Care Act, said Jill Click, Anchor Point program manager.

“If they would repeal Obamacare, then most of people we serve would not be able to get services,” she said.

Last month, First Lady Melania Trump met at the White House with families affected by the opioid crisis. She heard from the U.S. Center for Disease Control that 91 Americans die every day from opioid-related overdoses, according to the Associated Press. She plans to visit Huntington today.

Travis Crum is a reporter for the Williamson Daily News. He can be reached by phone at 304-236-6497.

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