It's nice to know we have great champions in Washington, D.C. not only representing West Virginia, but all of our country, in the most important issues.

We had the pleasure of hosting a town hall, roundtable meeting with Sen. Joe Manchin at the Health Science Center.

Sen. Manchin is an experienced public servant who has served the state in virtually every capacity, and is now on a mission to solve the opioid problem we have in our state and country.

He shared some of his data.

  • While the US has only 4.5 percent of the world’s population, its citizens use more than 80 percent of the opioids and about 99 percent of the oxycodone produced in the world.
  • West Virginia citizens were targeted with 130 opioid prescriptions per 100 people. That amounted to 200 million opioid pills in a 5-year period.
  • Today, drug overdoses kill more Americans than car accidents and our state leads the country with 35.5 overdose deaths per 100,000, far above the next state, Georgia at 22 per 100,000.

We need to improve this, and we covered a lot of ground about different approaches on how to achieve this goal.

We had three panels - education, treatment and research. The panelists were a combination of state leaders, faculty, staff, and students.

They were all outstanding.

The Education group touched on the following:

  • Signing onto the White House commitment to train all medical providers in the new CDC guidelines on opioid prescribing
  • Training first responders to giving naloxone/Narcan (The antidote to opioids)
  • Educating students and faculty on student addiction and treatment programs
  • Interdisciplinary education for all health care workers
  • Training patients to be smarter about their prescriptions when opioids are involved

The Treatment group touched on the following:

  • The need for more comprehensive programming around rebuilding communities of hope and purpose to facilitate resilience for our residents
  • Medication-assisted treatment and the COAT (Comprehensive Opioid Addiction Treatment) program
  • Medication management programming
  • Involvement of students in the health rite free clinic

The Research group touched on the following:

  • Analytic research to understand who is at risk, who is likely to respond to what therapy and where are co-existing conditions that worsen outcome
  • Understanding how we can assess, prevent and treat complications from IV drug use including hepatitis, HIV
  • Creating the DNA profile of addiction receptors and genetic animal models that may affect response to opioids or to treatment
  • Assessment of the impact of policy on treatment access and treatment success, including reintegration strategies

Sen. Manchin is an expert and talked about his goals to have federal agencies including FDA, CDC and DEA to communicate and coordinate activities around the number of opioids allowed on the market and the oversight of who can prescribe and for what indications.

He pointed out that much is common sense that should rule the opioid distribution by the government, by health care professionals and by pharmaceutical companies.

We are consuming more of these powerful drugs than all the rest of the world by a huge margin.

It was inspiring, powerful, educational and important.

It is part of the golden moment frame that we find ourselves in each day.

A golden moment to change the future of many of our citizens in our state and in the country.

A golden moment to do well by doing good. A golden moment to regain faith, hope, and community. A golden moment for a better tomorrow.