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Manchin Opioid Roundtable discusses solutions to the Eastern Panhandle opioid epidemic

By Staff | Sep 28, 2018

Senator Joe Manchin, right, talks about the opioid epidemic during the roundtable, as WVU RN Linda Blanc listens. Photo by Tabitha Johnston.

SHEPHERDSTOWN — Last week, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin spent a few days touring the Eastern Panhandle and meeting with local emergency and healthcare professionals to discuss ideas on how to address the opioid crisis in the Eastern Panhandle.

On Sept. 19, Manchin held an Opioids Roundtable at the Jefferson County Day Report Center, and listened as state police, local police, local doctors and nurses and the JCDRC staff discussed the issues children are dealing with, in connection with the opioid crisis. Manchin, who is up for reelection this November, also offered insight during the meeting into the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018, which would reauthorize and improve the State Targeted Opioid Response program.

Manchin discussed his plan to encourage a production fee on opioids manufactured in-state, the revenue of which could be used to combat the effects of the opioid crisis.

“If you’re going to produce this stuff, then pay. This isn’t a tax — it’s a production fee for producing opioids,” Manchin said.

One issue raised during the meeting, was the lack of foster families for the growing number of children in households with addicted parents. Although there are exceptions to the rule, many children who grow up in these households are abused or neglected, and deal with the psychological trauma by becoming addicted to opioids themselves. While many children in addicted households would be placed in the foster care system if there was room, the statewide lack of foster families is forcing many children to remain in their negative home situations.

“You talk to their teachers, and they don’t want to send their children home. They know one thing — if you leave a child in a drug-infested home, they’re going to try drugs themselves,” Manchin said. “They say it takes a village to raise a child. It’s going to take a country to save a generation.”

“We can’t force families to foster children, but we’ve got to do something where there’s a long mentoring for these kids. The word ‘institution’ is a horrible word, but we need a caring, meaningful not-for-profit facility for these kids,” Manchin said.

Emergency Department Dr. Marry Treese said she hopes Manchin’s initiatives will decrease the high number of people visiting the emergency room as the result of addiction.

“In the Emergency Room, a lot of people are there because of psychiatric issues or trauma issues related to drug-addiction. What we really need is behavioral health facilities for children, and we need more rehab facilities that are closer to the Eastern Panhandle. The closest is in Clarksburg, and to ask a person to drive their child five hours to get there isn’t always possible. So we often use our hospital transport, which then impacts the entire running of the Emergency Department,” Treese said. “It was nice for Senator Manchin to come here and discuss this problem with us, to show his support.”

Jefferson County Day Report Center Executive Director Ronda Eddy agreed with Treese, and said she was glad to learn about the legislation Manchin is backing.

“We will benefit from this here,” Treese said. “We’ve had a long relationship with Senator Manchin — he’s always been supportive of our program. “