For the West Virginia Press Association
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Efforts to curb the statewide substance abuse epidemic took precedence in the House chamber Wednesday as both House Bills 2428 and 2195 were passed onto the Senate with unanimous support.
H.B. 2428, lead-sponsored by Delegate John Kelly, R-Wood, would ensure the addition of beds in substance abuse treatment facilities throughout the state. West Virginia residents would receive first preference for long-term rehabilitation, which may last up to a year.
The bill will also establish the Ryan Brown Addiction Prevention and Recovery Fund, which will fund the additional recovery facilities.
Delegate Andrew Robinson, D-Kanawha, originally introduced the Ryan Brown Fund in H.B. 2422 to commemorate his lifelong friend who succumbed to addiction.
H.B. 2428 was amended in committee and eventually combined with H.B. 2422. With amended text and advice from the Department of Health and Human Resources, the Ryan Brown legislation trekked onward.
“As long as we can obtain funding for the cause of prevention, it doesn’t matter which vehicle we take. What matters is that we can get there and can supply necessary resources,” Robinson said.
Robinson said although the passage was a step in the right direction, it “certainly won’t be the last.”
“Thankfully we’re finally addressing this epidemic without blinders,” Robinson said.
(An in-depth report on the bill can be accessed via https://wvpress.wpengine.com/breaking-news/ryan-brown-addiction-bill-passed-house-finance/).
Speaker of the House Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, said House members have taken a three-pronged approach to tackling the substance abuse epidemic through “education, treatment and criminal prosecution,” he said in a release.
“This bill is the next piece of the puzzle,” Armstead said. “This will give us the additional facilities and beds we need to provide hope and treatment opportunities to our fellow West Virginians who are desperately seeking help to combat their addictions.”
H.B. 2195, lead-sponsored by Delegate Matthew Rohrbach, R-Cabell, would establish a drug awareness and prevention program in every public school in the sate. The bipartisan initiative aims to educate K-12 students on the dangers of drug use and the consequences that could follow.
If passed, the text requires the educational programs to be implemented no later than the 2018-2019 school year. Each county school board will be responsible for determining program curricula and delivery styles.
Programs will incorporate school personnel, parents and specialists in the community to assist in expanding awareness and prevention efforts. Instructors will also discuss the “appreciation of the risks to, duties of, and likely actions” of law enforcement in regards to investigation conduct and how to handle police interactions.
H.B. 2195 will also require 60-minutes of opioid education for students in grades 6-12, “as considered appropriate by the county board.”
Delegate Andrew Byrd, D-Kanawha, voiced his support as the original sponsor of the initiative in Wednesday’s floor session. Portions of H.B. 2195 were initially introduced in H.B. 4258 in 2016.
Byrd later said the movement was crafted alongside local law enforcement, the DEA and substance abuse specialists from Cabell and Kanawha counties.
“When it comes to substance abuse, prevention is a three-step process,” Byrd said. “First we must educate our youth and communities, prevent substances from reaching our residents and extend rehabilitative support to those battling addiction.”
Now that the epidemic has been confronted, Byrd said, “we can’t stop.”
“This initiative will not only help our state head off the epidemic, but reach residents early on,” Byrd said. “I’m thankful regardless of the method in which it passed.”