House committee to tackle substance abuse problems

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A select committee on prevention and treatment of substance abuse formed by House Speaker Tim Armstead plans to tackle several bills handed to them during this year’s Regular Legislative Session.

The committee will meet for the first time Tuesday.

One of those bills would increase access to the drug naloxone, which reverses the effects of opiods during a heroin overdose.

Delegate Chris Stansbury (R-Kanawha, 35), vice-chairman of the committee, said the bill would educate patients and family members about how to use the drug and what to do afterward. He said they want to make sure residents living in more rural areas of the state have an opportunity to store the drug in their home if they live with an addict.

Also, changes to drug clinics could be presented to the state Legislature. Stansbury said the state Department of Health and Human Resources found the clinics are “perpetuating addiction.”

“There’s no treatment plan,” he said on Friday’s edition of 580 Live. “They’re just going in once a day picking up their medications, so we want to try to make sure that if those clinics are operating in West Virginia they’re doing so with some accountability.”

State lawmakers could be hearing about about an expansion of a treatment plan passed last session that deals with drug addiction within the criminal justice system. Stansbury said, currently, there is no ongoing treatment in regional jails.

“This would be medication assisted treatment using the drug called Vivitrol and trying get some of our folks help while they’re in jail so that they don’t recidivate and continue in that cycle,” he said.

Expanding harm reduction and needle exchange programs across the states will also be a top priority for the committee. Last year, the first of its kind project was introduced at the Cabell-Huntington Health Department.

“It’s not just about getting them a clean needle. It’s about getting them off the streets for a few minutes and saying ‘hey, look. There is treatment available. We want to help you.’ and give them the opportunity to make that choice,” Stansbury said.

As a select committee, Stansbury said they will be able to receive legislation directly from the majority leader if the bill is assigned directly to them. The bill would then be discussed, passed on to a different committee or on to the floor for a vote.