WILLIAMSON, W.Va. – On Wednesday morning, representatives from multiple local agencies in various health and law enforcement fields met with Dr. Robert Califf, Commissioner of the United States Food and Drug Administration, to discuss the opioid problem plaguing the area.
The closed door round table discussion took place on the second floor of the Williamson Fire Department.
On hand to offer insight and possible solutions to the situation were Dr. Beckett with the Williamson Health and Wellness Center, Williamson Fire Department Chief Joey Carey, Nicole McNamee, Pharmacist, Hurley Drug, Mingo County Sheriff James Smith and Durand Warren, Counselor, Logan Mingo Mental Health and Dr. Manuel Abbas.
Representatives were also on hand from STOP Coalition and Williamson Memorial Hospital.
During the discussion it became apparent everyone involved in the discussion had the same concerns and very few solutions.
The use of Naloxone or Narcan was discussed in great detail during the meeting. Naloxone or Narcan is a medication used to block the effects of opioids, especially in overdose. The drug can be administered three ways. It may be administered intravenously,usually in a hospital setting or by a paramedic; this method begins working within two minutes. It may also be injected into a muscle and works within five minutes. The most common technique used in administering the opioid blocker among law enforcement and first responders is use of a nasal spray.
Nicole McNamee with Hurley Drug in Williamson said, “As of July 1 of this year West Virginia made Narcan available over the counter.”
Hopefully, with will help decrease the number of overdose deaths we are seeing in this area.
Sheriff Smith said he would like to be able to offer training to his officers on how to administer Narcan, however, with his department suffering from $165,000 cut in their budget; he is unable to do things he wants and needs to do.
Dr. Califf said more than half of the pain medicine subscriptions filled in southern West Virginia end up in the hands of someone other than the intended person.
Chief Carey added, he had heard of situations were older patients had sold their pain medications in order to be able to pay for other meds, such as blood pressure and heart medications.
Lack of funding and economic struggles are just two of the many obstacles Mingo County will have to overcome in order to combat the drug problem facing the region.
The few treatment facilities accessible are usually “cash only”.
It the past month alone there have been at least three confirmed overdose deaths in the county.
It is hard to get the tools and the training needed for rural areas.
Sheriff Smith said “Most of our drug related arrests are repeat offenders and the problem is, there are no jobs available and no way to steer them in another direction.”
Dr. Cahill was in Charleston, W.Va. on Tuesday and spoke with a group of state leaders and doctors regarding the epidemic in the state.
U.S. Senator Joe Manchin was also in attendance at the meeting in Charleston.
Sen. Joe Manchin has long said the Food and Drug Administration needs to do more to stop the problem at the source.
He’s proposing that the FDA include in its mission, the public health impact of the nation’s opioid epidemic when approving and regulating opioid medications.
Senator Manchin also wants to hold the FDA accountable for approving dangerous and highly addictive opioids by requiring that the agency seek the advice of an advisory committee and provide justification to Congress when they approve an opioid against the advice of those experts.
“Why do you think this needs to be done when the professionals say this doesn’t need to be on the market?” Manchin said. “Why are we putting so many new products on the market?”
Kendra Mahon is a reporter for the Williamson Daily News. She can be reached at [email protected] and 304-235-4242 ext 2278.