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Delegate: What I Would Say to the President on Drug Abuse

State lawmakers like Delegate Don Perdue are considering what they would say to President Obama about West Virginia's drug abuse crisis when Obama is in Charleston. Photo by Dan Heyman
State lawmakers like Delegate Don Perdue are considering what they would say to President Obama about West Virginia's drug abuse crisis when Obama is in Charleston. Photo by Dan Heyman
October 19, 2015

CHARLESTON, W. Va. - President Barack Obama will be in Charleston this week, to discuss West Virginia's drug crisis. Wayne County delegate Don Perdue has long worked on the issue and has some thoughts on what he would say to the president.

Perdue has tried for years to get the legislature to increase the taxes on beer, alcohol and tobacco to pay for more treatment and recovery. But he says it's gotten so bad we need a comprehensive, multi-faceted national response, not a piece-meal state approach. He says he'd tell the president we have to get past just talking about it.

"The situation has grown so dramatically, I believe it's time for a national response - not a national dialog," says Perdue. "'Mr. President,' I would say, 'we need to act, and we need to act now.'"

West Virginia has the highest rate of overdose deaths in the country and a desperate shortage of recovery beds.

The state has tended to handle the issue as a matter for the criminal justice system, but Perdue says the war on drugs is failing and we can't arrest our way out of the problem. He says it's already costing taxpayers a huge amount, but he says we need to shift that investment.

"Our state government for a number of years now has been in denial," says Perdue. "Prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery. If we're not prepared to invest equally in all four of those prongs, then we're doomed to failure."

Perdue says there are a few things we can do quickly that don't cost a lot - send young recovered addicts to talk to their peers at schools, and develop a flexible response, coordinating with communities to quickly move law enforcement to where the drug problems are.

And he says one of the big things the state needs to work on is expanding it's treatment and recovery beds.

"If we can bring in from that war on drugs, from that battlefield, those casualties who can be recovered, many of whom now have no chance whatsoever because we don't have the facilities to deal with it," says Perdue.

The WVU School of Medicine prescription drug abuse quitline is 1-866-WVQUITT or wvrxabuse.org.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV