Battle Addiction Where It Is Worst

Battling the substance abuse epidemic in West Virginia cannot be a matter of bureaucratic formulas and politics as usual in Washington. The federal government needs to do more about drugs in the Mountain State.

To many members of Congress and, no doubt, to most people in the executive branch of government, drug abuse is viewed as a problem.

Here in West Virginia, it is a crisis.

Our state continues to have the highest drug overdose death rate in the nation, by far. Every indication is that once statistics from last year are tabulated, they will reveal more than 1,000 West Virginians overdosed themselves to death last year.

Such has been the depth and length of our experience with opioids and other abused drugs that we in the Mountain State have plenty of ideas about how to battle the crisis. We are doing what we can, but our resources simply are not up to the task.

We need help, and it will have to come from Washington.

There, President Donald Trump discussed the opioid epidemic during his State of the Union speech Tuesday. He offered no details of what he plans to do, which is not unusual in such an address.

One thing Trump and others in the federal government could do is understand the seriousness of the crisis here. West Virginia is ground zero in the war against drugs.

Yet we have not been treated as such. As Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., noted this week, one major federal anti-drug initiative is in the process of doling out $500 million. Of that total, $7 million is earmarked for our state.

Manchin said he hopes to convince Trump to allocate money to attack the opioid problem based on severity, not population. Let us hope he and other Mountain State lawmakers are successful.

Handing out money based on population may seem to make political sense. But it ignores the obvious, that resources to address any problem ought to be focused on areas where it is worst.

Unless federal officials recognize that and provide much more anti-drug aid to West Virginia, 1,000 overdose deaths in a year may be just the tip of a grim iceberg.