State’s overdose deaths on the decline, according to CDC report

On the above map, states shown in blue demonstrate improvement in overdose death reduction from March 2021 through March 2022. (Photo courtesy of Centers for Disease Control)

TAYLOR COUNTY—Many communities in the area have noticed an increase in drug activity due to a nationwide growing drug epidemic, and with the epidemic comes the heartbreaking reality of lives lost to overdose.

However, according to recent reports, West Virginia’s percentage of overdose deaths has been decreasing. It is one of six states to see that positive trend.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), from 2014 to 2015, West Virginia saw a 16.9 percent increase in drug related deaths. In 2015, the state topped the list for the most deaths per capita than any other state, with an average of 41.5 deaths per 100,000 people. That’s 725 lives in one year that were lost to drug addiction.

For many years, West Virginia was the epicenter for drug overdose deaths, but thankfully, according to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, those numbers are starting to decline, and it is a welcome trend.

According to the CDC’s National Vital Statistics System, from March 2021 through March 2022, the state saw a 3.63 percent decline in overdose deaths. The only state who showed a better improvement was Virginia at 6.69 percent.

From prescription drugs to marijuana and synthetically produced substances such as methamphetamine, the nation saw an increase in the use and sale of these horrible substances, but with the recent report, officials can start to breathe a small sigh of relief.

“West Virginia is starting to plateau and likely seeing a slight downward trend,” said Dr. Matthew Christiansen, Director of the Office of Drug Control Policy (ODCP), West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR). 

And while happy with the figures reported, he said that efforts would continue to only decrease the number of lives lost saying, “We are encouraged by CDC’s data and will continue our efforts to end West Virginia’s substance use epidemic.”

The credit for the decrease is in part to initiative and funding presented during Governor Jim Justice’s tenure in office.

“In 2021, a number of measures were implemented to address the overdose epidemic under the direction of Gov. Jim Justice,” added Dr. Christiansen.

Whether through the distribution of naloxone to high-risk individuals, continued expansion of drug treatment centers and recovery services, to stigma campaigns, officials have worked diligently to help spread awareness that could potentially save lives.

Under Justice, a network of ODCP Regional Coordinators were established and collaborations with colleagues in law enforcement to build new Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion programs occurred.

Taylor County Prosecuting Attorney John Bord shared that every community is different in their drug problems. 

“In our community, we see a great deal of methamphetamine, Suboxone and Methadone use and sales,” he explained. 

But even on a local level, work is being done to try to combat the issues associated with the substances.

The Tygart Valley Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force, the Grafton City Police Department and the Taylor County Sheriff’s Department are working diligently within the county to find and arrest individuals contributing to the problem. 

Local organizations are working to educate individuals concerning overdoses and have begun to distribute naloxone in an effort to potentially save lives.

“Drug use is an addiction, and it’s a hard cycle to break,” expressed Bord. “People have to want to get help, but sadly some people don’t feel that they need it sometimes.”

For those who are seeking to rid their lives of the hold drugs have over them, there are services that can help.

Resources include HELP4WV, which offers 24/7 confidential support and resource referrals through call, text, and chat lines. Residents may call HELP4WV at 844-HELP4WV, text at 844-435-7498, or chat at www.help4wv.com.

In addition, HELP4WV also offers a Children’s Crisis and Referral line. 

 Another vital resource is HELP304, which offers social and emotional counseling through its professional crisis counselors. People may contact Help304 at 1-877-HELP304, text at 1-877-435-7304, or chat at http://help304.com. 

The Suicide & Crisis Lifeline (988) provides 24/7 free and confidential support, prevention, and crisis resources.

If you or a loved one are suffering from drug addiction, it is not too late to get help. Don’t wait until it is too late, reach out and find the help you need now.

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