In the midst of the addiction crisis, it’s going to take people power to heal our people and our communities. We need politicians willing to explore many different solutions, politicians who listen to us and care more about West Virginians than wealthy interests or drug companies. And we need residents who are willing to keep pushing.
Take Charleston, for example. In a time of hard budget choices, Charleston’s newly elected Mayor and City Council members showed their loyalty to the many families of Charleston who have been devastated by the crisis. They’re creating a new Coordinated Addiction Response Effort (CARE) office to take a multi-pronged approach to helping people in recovery.
This coordinated effort was a key plank in Mayor Amy Goodwin’s platform last fall as she ran against an opponent who stigmatized addiction and proposed to solve the crisis with increased policing and reduced addiction-related services. Charleston voters turned out in large numbers showing they wanted more options to deal with the crisis, and Goodwin won by a landslide. After the election, a group of community members affected by the drug crisis attended each of the Mayor’s five “community tour” meetings and continually asked every city official how their offices would help address the addiction crisis. This citizen involvement helped give the city the push needed to follow through on their promises.
Let’s put this approach to work at the state level. We need to elect legislators willing to fight the stigma against addiction and put real dollars into saving our communities. And we need to be ready to hold them accountable to fulfill their promises.