The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) has submitted final recommendations for the state’s Opioid Response Plan to Gov. Jim Justice and the West Virginia Legislature.
The Office of Drug Control Policy has worked with a panel of national and regional public health experts to garner public input and review science-supported options to reduce the number of overdose deaths in the state.
“These final recommendations for a West Virginia Opioid Response Plan are straightforward, actionable, and evidence-based,” said Bill J. Crouch, DHHR Cabinet Secretary. “We are providing this report to Governor Justice and the Legislature for their consideration. We stand ready to act.”
The recommendations are as follows:
• Prevention — West Virginia should expand the authority of medical professional boards and public health officials to address inappropriate prescribing of pain medications; West Virginia should limit the duration of initial opioid prescriptions.
• Early Intervention — West Virginia should expand awareness of substance use disorder as a treatable disease by developing a public education campaign to address misinformation and associated stigma. This campaign should also support access to treatment through 1-844-HELP4WV; West Virginia should expand promising law-enforcement diversion programs, such as the LEAD model, to help people experiencing a substance use disorder access treatment and achieve sustained recovery; West Virginia should strengthen support for lifesaving comprehensive harm reduction policies, by removing legal barriers to programs that are based on scientific evidence and by adding resources.
• Treatment — Reflecting the need for all patients to have access to multiple options for treatment, West Virginia should require a statewide quality strategy for opioid use disorder treatment and remove unnecessary regulatory barriers to the expansion of effective treatment; West Virginia should expand access to effective substance use disorder treatment in hospital emergency departments, other healthcare settings, and the criminal justice system to reach people at key moments of opportunity to enter care.
• Overdose Reversal — West Virginia should require all first responders to carry naloxone and be trained in its use, support community-based naloxone programs for initial responders, and authorize a standing order for naloxone prescriptions to improve insurance coverage; West Virginia should require hospital emergency departments and Emergency Medical Services to notify the Bureau for Public Health of nonfatal overdoses for the purpose of arranging for outreach and services.
• Supporting Families with Substance Use Disorder — West Virginia should expand effective programs that serve families, including Drug Free Moms and Babies, home visitation programs, and comprehensive services for the families of children born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome such as Lily’s Place; West Virginia should expand access to voluntary, long-acting, reversible contraception and other contraceptive services for men and women with substance use disorder in multiple settings.
• Recovery — West Virginia should continue pursuing a broad expansion of recovery supports, including peer-based support services, families, and allies.
The expert panel reviewed more than 350 public comments and held a public hearing to provide input and recommendations for a proposed plan. The proposed plan was then placed online for public comment on Jan. 11 with more than 100 additional comments received.
“This response plan is the result of a tremendous amount of work by the expert panel after thorough public engagement," said Dr. Rahul Gupta, State Health Officer and Commissioner of DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health. "We extend our appreciation to members of the public, the expert panel, and the various subject-matter experts who participated in the public forum and provided written comments. We believe public engagement was extremely helpful to the expert panel in this process.”
The full recommendation report can be found at dhhr.wv.gov/bph.
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