By ERIC EYRE
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia lawmakers want the state to start tracking drug crimes and drug overdoses.
The proposed reporting system aims to put the state in a better position to secure grant funding to help curb drug-related offenses and reduce the state’s overdose death rate — the highest in the nation.
“Data equals funding,” former U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld told lawmakers Thursday. “The better job we do of collecting data, the more opportunities we’ll have to obtain funding from sources outside West Virginia.”
On Thursday, the House Committee on Prevention and Treatment of Substance Abuse advanced a bill (HB 2620) that would establish a central repository for drug overdose statistics and drug crime data.
The state Medical Examiners Office now reports overdose deaths, but most nonfatal overdoses go unreported.
Under the bill, police, hospitals and paramedics would be required to report fatal and nonfatal overdoses — and whether an overdose-reversing drug called Narcan was administered.
The original bill only mandated overdose reporting. Committee members tacked on the drug crime reporting requirements during a meeting Thursday.
Under those changes, county prosecutors would have to fill out forms that document drug crimes and submit them to the state Division of Justice and Community Services. Overdose reports would go to the same office.
“The intent is to gather data and analyze data and apply for grants,” said Marty Wright, a House lawyer. “The grants would be used to fully operate the office.”
The bill next moves to the House Judiciary Committee.
Also Thursday, Ihlenfeld noted that fentanyl was the leading cause of overdose deaths in West Virginia last year.
“Fentanyl is the greatest threat that we face right now in West Virginia,” he said.
Ihlenfeld also suggested that the state limit initial painkiller prescriptions to a seven-day supply. Doctors typically prescribe a 30-day supply of pain pills for patients.
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