West Virginians take care of each other and that means lifting barriers to taking care of families, communities and individuals affected by the addiction crisis.
"I was headed to the grave or jail — no question," says a recovering heroin addict in an important story about West Virginia’s opioid abuse epidemic by the Beckley Register-Herald.
The 40-year-old man has been aided in his recovery by the use of suboxone, which as he notes “just makes you feel normal” as he gets his life back together with medically assisted addiction treatment.
With so many families and communities torn apart by addiction, the availability of medically assisted recovery treatment is an essential tool for addressing the epidemic of opioid addiction and overdose deaths.
The story details the difficulties and gaps in the availability of suboxone as a treatment option across the state.
Dr. Michael Barnett, assistant professor of health policy and management at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, told the newspaper:
West Virginia's requirement that Medicaid patients also participate in counseling could be hindering access to the life-saving treatment. (When combined with naloxone, buprenorphine is referred to as Suboxone.)
"This is not best practice because the primary effect is to make it harder for patients to initiate buprenorphine, which is the No. 1 most important intervention to start," he said. "Counseling is important, but there is no role for delaying or stopping buprenorphine because of it.
"Also, there is randomized trial evidence that taking buprenorphine with or without counseling is equally effective. West Virginia is not the only state with this requirement. However, repealing that policy would be an immediate benefit to the residents of West Virginia in my opinion."
If West Virginia is ever to lose its terrible top spot as the state with the highest number of overdose deaths, it must follow the most effective and caring route to help individuals, families and communities recover from the scourge of this epidemic.
IMAGE of DOOR: Jan Tinneberg, unsplash.com