The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

June 25, 2014

Rx abuse

Time to find our own solutions


— The frustration of dealing with West Virginia’s chronic drug problem is leading to innovative ways to attempt to curb the abuse.

In Oceana, the City Council should have a new law in place this summer that imposes fines on persons who possess drug paraphernalia, or material or equipment that can be used to make, use or conceal illegal drugs.

Based on a law passed by the City of Huntington, it would fine anyone caught with such items $500 for a first offense, $1,000 for a second and $2,000 for a third.

“I feel this ordinance will give the police department another tool they can use,” Councilman Jim Cook said. “It is a crime-prevention strategy and sends a message to the community that we are serious on fighting illegal drug use.”

A second attempt to whittle down prescription drug abuse in the state comes from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, which announced new regulations on the state’s numerous pain management clinics that are often condemned by the phrase “pill mills.”

Come July 1, clinics that primarily treat patients for chronic pain must be licensed by the office Health Facility Licensure and Certification, a division within the DHHR.

A chronic pain management clinic is defined as a facility that primarily treats “chronic pain for nonmalignant conditions.”

Clinics qualify under the chronic pain management clinic classification if more than 50 percent of the clinic’s unique patient visits in a month are to obtain certain prescription pain medications. Hospitals, nursing homes and certain other facility types are exempt from having to apply for and obtain a license,

 “Pain clinic licensure is the most recent step in combating substance abuse in West Virginia,” said Jolynn Marra, director of the licensure and certification office. “Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and members of the Legislature began implementing substance abuse legislation in 2012. Licensure ensures all chronic pain management clinics conform to a common set of standards and meet minimum requirements for care, treatment, health, safety, welfare and comfort of patients.”

We think it is a positive sign to see communities like Oceana and state regulators move aggressively to do what they can to try to turn back the tide of drug abuse.

On the issue of the abuse of pharmaceutical painkillers, we find it ironic that an industry that is so heavily regulated at the federal level somehow can’t seem to come up with ways to keep powerful analgesic painkillers away from those who abuse them.

But we’re not advocating that the federal government become more involved. After years of seeing the problem continue to grow, we have far more confidence in state regulators and, when it comes to street drugs, the common sense of the good folks in Oceana.

It’s the West Virginia way, after all, to take on problems ourselves.

It’s time we created our own solutions.