Sen. Joe Manchin Visits Unity Center in Benwood

Photo by Joselyn King U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., speaks on the opioid addiction epidemic affecting both West Virginia and the entire nation during a stop Friday at the Unity Center in Benwood.

BENWOOD — During the 10 years of the Vietnam War, nearly 60,000 American soldiers were killed in action. About the same number of people died just last year across America of drug addiction, according to U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin.

About 800 of the opioid deaths were recorded in West Virginia in 2017, he said.

Manchin, D-W.Va., spoke on the issue of the nation’s opioid addiction during a stop Friday at the Unity Center drug addiction recovery center, now located in Benwood.

Those attending stood or sat shoulder to shoulder in the center’s meeting room, with many others listening from adjacent rooms.

“We can’t lose one person in West Virginia, and we surely can’t lose a whole generation,” Manchin said.

“And if we don’t reverse what is going on right now, that’s what will happen.”

He said he has learned from judges that imposing tougher jail sentences on those convicted of drug addiction isn’t the answer, as they may see as many as 10 addicts in a day who really don’t belong in already overcrowded prisons.

“They have an illness, and it’s called addiction,” Manchin said of the addicts. “And it’s not going to be healed in a jail cell.”

Drug treatment and home confinement for the addicts tends to yield better results, he said.

Most everyone has someone in their family who has had to overcome some kind of addiction, and typically it was a silent killer, he said. Family members didn’t discuss relatives’ addiction illness.

The opioid epidemic saw drug manufacturers flood some of West Virginia’s small communities with such pain killing medication as OxyContin.

Manchin has introduced the Budgeting for Opioid Addiction Treatment Act, also called the “LifeBOAT” Act.

The bill would establish a 1-cent stewardship fee on each milligram of active opioid ingredient in a prescription pain pill. Money would be used to fund efforts to provide and expand access to substance abuse treatment.

This would include establishing new addiction treatment facilities; recruiting and increasing reimbursement for certified mental health providers for substance abuse treatment; expanding access to long-term, residential treatment programs for addicts; and establishing and/or operating support programs that offer employment services, housing, and other support services to help a recovering addict transition back into society.

The bill also would provide funding to facilities who provide care for babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome, and establish substance abuse treatment programs in conjunction with Adult and Family Treatment Drug Courts.

Manchin also said the Food and Drug Administration has allowed too many drugs to go on the market. He suggests when one is approved, another be eliminated.

While in the area, Manchin also visited students at Wheeling Central Catholic High School. There, he helped the school mark the conclusion of Catholic Schools week and honored service academy nominees from the school.


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