CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State Chief Health Officer Dr. Rahul Gupta said President Donald Trump’s decision to declare a national emergency in relation to the opioid crisis is welcomed news.
“This disaster can no longer afford to be hidden in silos. We’ve got to get together and take a comprehensive national approach to this,” Gupta told MetroNews Friday.
President Trump promised Thursday the emergency declaration would be coming soon. Gupta said it will be beneficial in two ways.
“We’re looking forward to both the resources as well as the flexibility coming from the federal government and we hope we continue to look at this and address this as a public disaster,” Gupta said.
State Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Bill Crouch issued a statement Friday along the same lines.
“We are in the midst of a public health crisis of devastating proportions. West Virginia continues to lead the nation in drug overdose deaths. We support the federal government’s effort in addressing this crisis in a decisive manner,” Crouch said.
Earlier this year state lawmakers passed a bill (HB 2620) to create the state Office of Drug Control Policy. Gupta said that office will be key as the state receives funding in connection with the declaration.
“That infrastructure is in anticipation of something like this. We’re right in the process of setting up its office,” Gupta said.
Statistics show the opioid epidemic claims a life in West Virginia on average every 10 hours. Gupta has been practicing medicine for 25 years and he said the impact of the crisis cannot be overstated.
“This is the worst I’ve personally seen it. It keeps me up at night,” he said. “It’s impacting families, communities, everywhere you go, everywhere you talk.”