U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller continued his mission to fight prescription drug abuse Thursday in Charleston.
The Senator, along with Third District Congressman Nick Rahall and Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Gil Kerlikowski held a roundtable meeting at the University of Charleston to discuss real solutions to the prescription drug epidemic in West Virginia.
Rockefeller, Rahall, and Kerlikowski have been using these meetings to talk with law enforcement officials, health care professionals, advocates and community members from across the state about this issue.
Rockefeller said this is a major problem not only in West Virginia, but across the nation.
“There are about four million chronic abusers in this country and about nine or ten regular users in this country,” said Rockefeller. “Spread across the country that obviously affects West Virginia a lot.”
In West Virginia, nine out of ten drug-related deaths result from the misuse and abuse of prescription drugs. The state also has one of the highest rates of drug overdose deaths in the country.
Rockefeller said prescription drug abuse is the greatest problem facing the nation right now outside of the current jobless rate. He said it’s not going away anytime soon either.
“This is the type of problem which is never going to go away and there’s no single solution,” said Rockefeller. “It’s just doing all kinds of different things at once.”
For the past eight to ten years, Rockefeller has been actively fighting this problem and recently he has renewed the push for two bills, the Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act and the Excellence in Mental Health Act. Both bills deal with what Rockefeller believes is key to improving this problem, mental health.
“There has to be really a lot more mental health involved than there is now,” said Rockefeller. “It’s isn’t about punishment, although that has to happen sometimes.”
Rockefeller said this issue needs to be addressed at a more personable level, treating those abusing drugs individually through mental health treatment.
He adds that another big part to addressing this epidemic, as he calls it, is to not give up.
“The main thing is that you never stop plugging. You plug away and keep at it,” said Rockefeller. “And nothing discourages you.”
A second roundtable meeting was held in Huntington Thursday as well. Rockefeller plans to hold many more meetings in the future.