Rep. David McKinley Reminding D.C. Opioid Abuse Still Exists in the Ohio Valley
WHEELING — Opioid overdose numbers climbed both locally and nationally during the COVID pandemic of 2020, and U.S. Rep. David B. McKinley wants to see more parity in government spending when it comes to tackling substance abuse.
“COVID is killing people at five times the rate of substance abuse deaths. But we’re spending 750 times the money to deal with COVID than we are in the deaths and the terrors caused by substance abuse in our communities,” he said.
“I’ve done the math and we put in $8 billion toward substance abuse treatment and education (during 2020). “During that same time period we spent $6 trillion on COVID in the same time period. I ask, is that fair?”
McKinley, R-West Virginia, is seeking more money for drug abuse education and treatment as the problem is expected to escalate.
Currently, $1.75 billion is dedicated to substance abuse prevention in the budget reconciliation bill currently before Congress. He is asking that an additional $3 billion be added to the amount.
He acknowledges his requests have thus far fallen on deaf ears, but he plans to keep pushing for more funding aimed at combating opioid addiction.
“Last week I took on the majority, and tried to remind them the crisis on substance abuse hasn’t gone away,” he said. “It’s still looming, and it’s still the second biggest epidemic we’ve had.
“Until the last quarter in West Virginia (when the number of reported COVID cases in the state sharply increased), we would have wound up having more deaths from overdoses and substance abuse than from COVID. But then with the surge, we wound up exceeding — but it’s still a huge number.”
The Center for Disease Control announced in December over 81,000 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States in the 12 months ending in May 2020, the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a 12-month period. Data for more recent months is not yet available.
It is likely, though, the rate of drug abuse deaths is increasing. Wheeling Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger announced in January overdoses in the city as a whole leaped by 51 percent during the 2020 calendar year, and overdose deaths jumped by 69 percent.
Nationwide COVID deaths are approaching 500,000 since the spring of 2020.