WILLIAMSON, W.Va. – State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R – W.Va.) hosted a round table discussion with county and municipal leaders Friday morning at the Mingo County Redevelopment Authority (MCRA) to discuss issues currently facing Mingo County.
Morrisey explained the reasoning behind Friday’s meeting stating, “We are here to meet with local community leaders and talk about the challenges that are going on Mingo County. The best way to represent people across the state is to go into communities and hear first-hand what is happening. There are a lot of important challenges in Mingo County not unlike challenges in other parts of the state. We try to talk about some of the issues that we are working on and get other ideas or problems that are unique to the areas. Substance abuse remains one of our state’s biggest challenges. We want to make sure that we are continuing to be aggressive.”
Much of the conversation centered on two key issues faced by Mingo County – developing solutions to overcome the opioid epidemic and diversifying the local economy.
In tackling the opioid epidemic, one of the solutions Morrisey discussed was changing current prescribing practices. “One of the reasons why I am so passionate about changing the prescribing patterns is because we have to move in a different direction for prescribing, dispensing and supplying in our country. People culturally have to understand that opioids are generally a bad choice unless there is an absolute medical need for them because the odds of getting addicted high and every entity in the pharmaceutical supply chain has to play an important role in fixing that problem – manufactures, wholesalers, pharmacies, prescribers, hospitals and the government as well. All of the rules have to be changed. This is not an easy problem. We didn’t get here overnight. It is still going to take a lot more work,” Morrisey stated.
Morrisey also discussed the need to continue funding substance abuse programs as well as evaluate opioid prevention and treatment programs currently underway and use a data driven approach to identifying strengths and weaknesses associated with the programs to better determine their effectiveness. “We need to keep adequate funding in that area. The most important thing we need to do as a state is determine how the current resources are being spent so we can spend them more wisely. No one has done a catalogue of assets in terms of what is happening in the state. We have been pushing for that and are trying to get more cooperation. As soon as this budget is over, I am looking forward to sitting down with the governor and others to get to the bottom of how we can spend money more effectively. There hasn’t been that review. We have been trying to get some of the basic data on all the resources that are being spent on substance abuse problems for a long while.”
Also discussed were challenges faced when trying to open opportunities to offer diversity in the local economy. During the meeting, Leesha Johnson Executive Director of MCRA questioned, “As we are trying to identify diversification opportunities, realizing that we should no longer entrust our livelihoods to an economic monoculture, we are trying to foster more entrepreneurial opportunities and build a bigger small business base but the banking industry is so highly regulated right now that access to capital becomes a stumbling block for new business owners. We are trying mitigate the risks of a lot of these displaced coal miners and these individuals that are potential new business owners and we are trying to be creative in offering some alternative lending options and even business coaching but that access to capital is a stumbling block right now.”
Morrisey encouraged the MCRA to approach the West Virginia Attorney General’s Office with potential lending models in the future. “If you have specific lending models you are looking at talk to us. We have been working with a lot of other attorney general colleagues on some of the regulatory systems that are making it hard for entrepreneurs to get access to the capital that they need. That is a very important point and we want to work to identify those regulations. We have weighed in on some of these alternative models. Sometimes they aren’t always popular. They could have high interest rates but at least they would give the capital that they need.”
To contact the West Virginia Attorney General visit http://www.ago.wv.gov/Pages/contact.aspx.
Courtney Harrison is a news reporter for the Williamson Daily News. She can be contacted at [email protected] or at 304-235-4242 ext. 2279