MADISON, W.Va. — State Senator Ron Stollings is a medical doctor. At his practice in Madison he says he can see the toll of job stress first hand among his patients who have jobs tied to the coal industry.
Stollings said he can see insomnia and blood pressure consistently rising among his patients, especially after last week’s WARN notices from Alpha Natural Resources for 1,100 workers.
“People are losing hope,” the senator said Monday on MetroNews Talkline. “We’re always looking for a ‘it might not be as bad’ or ‘maybe the market will come back.’ But the most acutely affected are our hard working coal miners and I’ve seen them in the office. Their blood pressure is high.”
He added the pressure is not just on miners, but on every person in the county which depends on the coal industry for the local economy. Local businesses are impacted, particulary car dealers and real estate agents.
“There’s a lot of ‘for sale’ signs on houses,” said Stollings. “People have come in here making 85-thousand dollars. They’ve bought houses and cars. You get 485 people laid off and this goes from top to bottom.”
Sen. Stollings said the state will also feel the pinch. He said Boone County alone provided more than $50 million in revenue to the state budget. He said it is disappointing very little has been done to diversify the economy, but added it could eventually be done if there’s a will to do it.
“You’ve got the I-64 corridor which is congested and lots of traffic,” he said. “The easiest thing to do is come down 119 toward Madison. There’s all kinds of beautiful land and you’re right outside of Charleston. It’s already happening, but it needs to come further. This is a very liveable place.”