CHARLESTON, W.Va. — U.S. Attorney Carol Casto says President Donald Trump’s national public health emergency declaration on the opioid epidemic will hopefully bring additional resources to West Virginia in the areas of prevention, education, treatment and enforcement.
“I think it has to be a multi-disciplinary approach,” Casto said. “I don’t know if one is more important than the other. I think they’re all necessary in trying to beat this thing.”
The President announced the declaration last Thursday at the White House.
The declaration, which will last at least 90 days, allows federal agencies to redirect resources and make temporary appointments to expand treatment services. It will not provide agencies with additional funding, though.
Casto, who serves as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of WV, has been on the front lines to combat the problem she said “keeps her awake at night.”
“I don’t know anyone who hasn’t felt the impact of this epidemic in some way,” she said.
West Virginia leads the nation in drug overdose deaths per capita, youth overdose deaths (ages 16-25) and hepatitus B and C cases, Casto said.
“The increase is directly related to the increase in needle usage,” she said.
Health departments, as well as schools and other organizations across West Virginia, have implemented needle exchange programs, but Casto said more needs to be done to teach young people the dangers of drug usage.
“What we’re seeing is our users are getting younger and younger, so we have to rethink how we talk to children,” she said about possible prevention programs.
President Trump previously said the U.S. Department of Justice will go after those who distribute opioids. He also plans to file lawsuits in connection with the distributions.
According to the declaration, the secretary for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will be also to access appropriations from the Public Health Emergency Fund, which currently only has $57,000.
U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) said Thursday Congress can appropriate the needed resources to West Virginia.
Casto said additional funding is cruicial to treat addicts.
“This is first and foremost an illness,” she said.
Babies who suffer from neonatal abstinence syndrome is also an issue that tugs on Casto’s heart strings. Babies who are born addicted to drugs are being treated at Lily’s Place in Huntington. First Lady Melania Trump made a visit there this month and mentioned it during the President’s Thursday announcement. Casto is hoping more babies can receive the treatment they need in the Mountain State.