In response to the rampant and ongoing opioid addiction epidemic claiming more and more of its citizens, West Virginia has passed a landmark piece of legislation aptly named the Ryan Brown Addiction Prevention and Recovery Fund (House Bill 2428). The law permits funds gained from suits against drug distributors to go toward treatment resources within the state. Thus far, The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) announced $22 million in settlement monies received from drug distributors will be used to combat the state’s drug epidemic. The state plans to evaluate where there is the greatest need for drug treatment services and will utilize an application-type process to empower private entities to build these facilities.
Last year, over 840 West Virginians died from drug overdose, representing a 46 percent increase in the past four years. Perhaps the largest contributing factors to West Virginia’s opioid addiction epidemic is the rampant and increasing presence of the opioid fentanyl and its role in more and more deaths. The state is among those that have been hit the hardest in the country and is working hard to come up with viable and realistic solutions to solving the problem. Most recently, West Virginia has announced the creation of its own Office of Drug Control Policy, which will be headed by former police officer Jim Johnson and overseen by The Governor’s Advisory Council on Substance Abuse (GACSA).
Allocating settlement funds toward the expansion of opioid addiction treatment resources will create a new and much-needed revenue stream for the state’s strained treatment industry. Many residents find themselves having to wait for beds or break through red tape as they endeavor to enter a treatment program. This is a problem that is likely to only get worse as mental health treatment law becomes more and more complicated.