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Editorial: Drug Crisis bill would create treatment facilities

From The Inter-Mountain of Elkins:

When it comes to battling our state’s substance abuse crisis, there are no Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature. There are just West Virginians as desperate as any of the rest of us to do something about the scourge.

A bill approved Wednesday by the House of Delegates made that clear. The vote was 99-0. Clearly, to ensure the measure does not fall through one of those infamous cracks that sometimes develop as lawmakers enter the last week of their regular session, state senators should approve the measure, too.

If enacted, it would provide more drug treatment facilities in our state, filling a need that has been apparent for years. The state has just 1,100 beds at such centers now.

That is woefully inadequate to handle the tens of thousands of Mountain State residents who need help to whip addictions to heroin, painkillers and other drugs.

Our failure to deal with the crisis is evident in the numbers. West Virginia, often ranked 49th or 50th in state-by-state comparisons of everything from poverty rate to education attainment, is No. 1 in drug overdose deaths. Our rate of 41.5 deaths a year per 100,000 in population is more than twice the national average of 16.3.

Using money from lawsuit settlements with drug distribution companies, the bill would permit the Department of Health and Human Resources to build new drug treatment facilities or contract with the private sector to provide them.

Preference ought to be for public-private partnerships, where the money may do more good. In addition, it could get more treatment facilities up and running more quickly than if government has to start from scratch.

Treatment for addicts will not end the drug abuse crisis. But it will help — and there can be no reasonable doubt that it will save lives and mend broken families.

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