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Report: Opioid Crisis Hit 54 of every 1,000 Kids in WV

The opioid crisis has led West Virginia to have the highest number per capita of children in state custody in the nation, a new report finds. (Adobe Stock)
The opioid crisis has led West Virginia to have the highest number per capita of children in state custody in the nation, a new report finds. (Adobe Stock)
November 21, 2019

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – West Virginia has the nation's largest share of children who face devastating consequences linked to the opioid crisis, according to a new report.

Research by the United Hospital Fund in New York shows that 54 out of every 1,000 children in the Mountain State were impacted by opioid use in 2017.

That's at least twice the rate of the national average.

Sam Hickman, executive director of the National Association of Social Workers West Virginia Chapter, says he's not surprised by the numbers.

He points out that the crisis came out of drugs flooding the market and the fact that the state's traditional job offerings, such as coal mining, are hard on a worker's body, which eventually leads to the need for pain management.

"At the same time, we had predatory policies on the part of pharmaceutical industries and prescribers, in some cases, to make sure that these drugs were available to them, and these drugs were highly addictive," he states.

The report also shows that almost 1.5 million children in the United States have a parent living with opioid addiction, and 170,000 children are themselves addicted to opiates or have accidentally ingested them.

Researchers say that even though the opioid crisis is the deadliest drug epidemic in the nation's history, its long-term impact on children hasn't gotten enough attention.

The report finds that children who have parents on opioids are more likely to develop an alcohol or drug disorder and more likely to need special education.

It also points out that West Virginia will need about $4 billion in services for children in need.

Hickman says the state is far from prepared for handling the repercussions of the years-long crisis.

"The state absolutely does not have the resources to support once the crisis is coming as children begin to grow older, to come into our school system,” Hickman states. “We're already dealing with difficult behaviors and teachers and other school professionals just not having the resources or the numbers to deal with them effectively."

If current trends continue, the report says, the number of children affected nationwide by opioid use will rise to more than 4 million by 2030, costing an estimated $400 billion in support services.

Disclosure: NASW West Virginia Chapter contributes to our fund for reporting on Children's Issues, Health Issues, Mental Health. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Diane Bernard, Public News Service - WV