This Proposal Would Help Hospitals in West Virginia Treat Drug Overdoses

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The National Rural Health Association has thrown its support behind a new proposal to provide more resources and guidelines for rural hospitals help people treated for a drug overdose.

Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) and Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA), have introduced a bill in the U.S. Congress – H.R. 5176, the Preventing Overdoses While in Emergency Rooms (POWER) Act – that would provide competitive grants for emergency departments in areas with high overdose rates.

These grants would allow qualifying facilities to hire recovery coaches, counselors, social workers and other professionals specializing in the treatment of substance abuse disorder, establish policies and procedures for the provision of overdose reversal medication, and increase the availability and access of medication-assisted treatment and other evidence-based treatment, among other things.

The legislation would also require the development of protocols for discharging patients who treated for a drug overdose and enhance the integration and coordination of care and treatment options for individuals with substance use disorder after they are discharged.

The National Rural Health Association wrote to both representatives last week to express our support for H.R. 5176.

This critical legislation provides preference for rural facilities, specifically Critical Access Hospitals, Sole Community Hospitals, and Low Volume Hospitals, in the grant process. Currently, 82.5 percent of rural counties do not have a single doctor with the ability to provide MAT, these communities are unable to access this crucial resource on the path to recovery.

You can learn more about the bill at

To learn more about the National Rural Health Association and it’s legislative advocacy, visit


Our First Look at West Virginia’s New Opioid Response Plan

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Expanding the authority of West Virginia’s public health officials to address inappropriate prescribing of pain medications, requiring all first responders to carry naloxone, and supporting programs that help children and families affected by opioid addiction are just some of the recommendations that feature in the new Opioid Response Plan.

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) submitted its final recommendations for the Opioid Response Plan to Gov. Jim Justice and the West Virginia Legislature following a period of expert study and public input.

Read more about the Opioid Response Plan at

Friday Deadline for Public to Comment on West Virginia’s New Opioid Response Plan

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The people of West Virginia have until this Friday, January 19, to submit their comments on a new opioid response plan developed by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (WVDHHR).

The proposed plan can be seen on the DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health website at Here’s a link directly to a PDF of the plan.

Comments will be accepted via email at, or by mail, to DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health, c/o Opioid Response Plan Comment, 350 Capitol Street, Room 702, Charleston, WV 25301

The proposed opioid response plan includes high-priority, short-term recommendations in six areas:

  1. Prevention:
    West Virginia should expand the authority of medical professional boards and public health officials to stop inappropriate prescribing of pain medications.
    West Virginia should limit the duration of initial opioid prescriptions.
  2. Early Intervention:
    West Virginia should expand awareness of addiction as a treatable disease by developing a public education campaign to address misinformation and associated stigma.
    West Virginia should expand promising law-enforcement diversion programs, such as the LEAD model, to help people experiencing a drug problem access treatment and achieve sustained recovery.
    West Virginia should strengthen support for lifesaving comprehensive harm reduction policies by removing legal barriers to programs that are based on scientific evidence and by adding resources.
  3. Treatment:
    Reflecting the need for all patients to have access to multiple options for treatment, West Virginia should require a statewide quality strategy for opioid use disorder treatment and remove regulatory barriers to the expansion of effective treatment.
    West Virginia should expand access to effective substance use disorder treatment in hospital emergency departments and the criminal justice system in order to reach people at key moments of opportunity.
  4. Overdose Reversal:
    West Virginia should require all first responders to carry naloxone and be trained in its use, support community-based naloxone programs, and authorize a standing order for naloxone prescriptions to improve insurance coverage.
    West Virginia should require hospital emergency departments and Emergency Medical Services to notify DHHR’s Bureau of Public Health of nonfatal overdoses for the purpose of arranging for outreach and services.
  5. Supporting Families with Substance Use Disorder:
    West Virginia should expand effective programs that serve families, including Drug Free Moms and Babies, home visitation programs, and comprehensive services for the families of children born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome such as Lily’s Place.
    West Virginia should expand access to long-acting reversible contraception and other contraceptive services for men and women with substance use disorders in multiple settings.
  6. Recovery:
    West Virginia should continue pursuing a broad expansion of peer-based supports.

“Governor Jim Justice has asked that we utilize all resources at our disposal to combat this epidemic,” said Bill J. Crouch, DHHR Cabinet Secretary. “Beginning today, our primary focus is to fight this problem on all fronts, and this plan is a crucial step in meeting that goal.”

The plan was developed through public engagement and expert input. The preliminary report was prepared by an expert panel after review of more than 300 public comments, a public meeting on December 21, 2017, and input from state agencies.

For more information visit

‘Diseases of Despair’ Killing Appalachians At a Higher Rate Than Rest of U.S.

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A study released by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) in August found that people in Appalachia are dying for “diseases of despair” – such as prescription drug and illegal drug overdose, suicide, and alcoholic liver disease – at higher rates than the rest of America.

In 2015, the 15 to 64 year old population in the Appalachian Region represented 7.8 percent of the total population in the United States for this age group, yet contributed to 10.3 percent of the total deaths from diseases of despair.

The goal of this study was to analyze the impact of the diseases of despair on mortality within the Appalachian Region. Specifically, researchers investigated whether disparities related to diseases of despair are greater within the Appalachian Region than the non-Appalachian United States, and whether Appalachian disparities were driving national trends showing rising mortality from diseases of despair.

Read the full report at

Herald-Dispatch: What the Needle Exchange Program Really Means for Cabell County

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By Bishop Nash/Huntington Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON – While finding discarded syringes in public places is an unnerving problem, two of West Virginia’s largest health departments are urging that the issue be viewed as a byproduct of the overall opioid epidemic rather than assigning blame to local needle exchange programs.

Those needle-exchange programs distribute hundreds of thousands of sterile syringes annually through the departments’ harm reduction programs.

A joint statement was issued Monday by Dr. Michael Kilkenny, physician director of the Cabell-Huntington Health Department, and Dr. Michael Brumage, executive director and health officer of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department and the Putnam County Health Department.

“Harm reduction programs, like those at the Cabell-Huntington Health Department and the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, are an integral part of the solution to the opioid epidemic,” the statement reads.

“Syringe exchange programs, which are part of harm reduction, provide sterile syringes and collect used syringes to reduce the transmission of HIV, viral hepatitis and other blood borne infections associated with the reuse by drug users of contaminated injection equipment…”

Read the full story at

Women and Opioids

The Office of Women’s Health released a final report on Opioid Use, Misuse, and Overdoes in Women. The study found that death rates from drug overdose for women are more pronounced in the rural South and Midwest. The report identified a possible explanation being that rural areas often lack access to treatment for substance use disorder.

Although opioid use rates are comparable in rural and urban counties, rural opioid users tend to be younger, unmarried, have lower incomes, and are more likely to lack health insurance, all vulnerabilities that may negatively impact their ability to seek treatment and recover.  Little is known about what states with large rural populations are doing to combat opioid use disorders (OUDs) in rural communities.

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