The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

February 1, 2013

Treating the addicts

The Register-Herald

— Substance abuse is one of the most dire problems the state of West Virginia faces.

Because of that, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin organized an Advisory Council on Substance Abuse in 2011.

Among the nine recommendations made in that council’s report released last week was building treatment centers for an estimated 150,000 addicts.

To create revenue for the centers and for prevention or recovery programs, the report also suggested dipping into the state’s $913 million rainy day fund and raising taxes on alcohol and cigarettes.

But word from the governor’s office is that he will reject those recommendations for funding the battle.

We assume Tomblin and his staff have another funding mechanism planned for these much-needed services. It would be great if it could be accomplished without raising any taxes, even the ones considered “sin” taxes.

But sin taxes in other areas have been used for building athletic complexes for professional sports teams and other less meaningful things — why not re-invest those dollars to help addicts?

No politician is popular when they make a decision to implement further taxes, but is this a popularity contest? We think not.

And wouldn’t helping thousands of West Virginians avoid the scourge of substance abuse go a long way in building public opinion anyway, if that were a concern?

One proposal floating about is that funding could come from dollars redirected, cash that would have gone to housing convicted abusers by reducing the jail and prison population.

Our hope is that if they’re not behind bars, they’ll be rehabilitated, former abusers.

The bottom line is, something has to be done.

And there has to be a way to fund it.

This must be a priority because the abuse of drugs keeps touching every community.

It obviously affects crime rates, our economy and health care costs.

Every day that passes becomes a missed opportunity.

Substance abuse is killing West Virginians nearly every day. Families are suffering.

We must continue to try to figure any way we can to combat and fund the fight against this horrible, rampant cultural issue.