HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice promised victory Monday in the state’s ongoing battle against opioids.
“I’m going to fix it and absolutely if you’re in the way, you’re are just going to have to just get run over or get out of the way because we’re going to fix it,” Justice said during an appearance at Marshall University where he announced the state’s next effort in the fight.
By executive order, Justice has created the Council on Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment which will work with the Office of Drug Control Policy to help various communities come up with plans to address the issues. Justice said the plans will follow the model of how Huntington has battled opiods.
Justice named Marshall University Director of Addiction Studies Bob Hansen as the new executive director of the state Office of Drug Control Policy and Marshall’s Brian Gallagher as the chairman of the council.
Gallagher, a pharmacist, lawyer and former state lawmaker, said the 15-member council will advise and direct the Office of Drug Control Policy with Hansen serving as chief of staff to the council.
“Some of the things we’re going to do to replicate this is the hub and spoke model,” Gallagher said. “We’ll take ideas from Marshall, WVU, the School of Osteopathic Medicine and use them around the state with telemedicine or have people go out and do rotations in different areas of the state. We’ll bring our expertise to these rural areas that really need it.”
Hansen said it’s his hope and desire to work cooperatively at the state level with the state Department of Health and Human Resources and other agencies to form a “concerted effort to address the opioid problem.”
Hansen said Huntington’s teamwork model can work in other communities.
“That’s where the solutions do lie, in sharing what our experiences have been in Huntington, and working with them (other communities) as we help them to find their path in addressing this epidemic,’ Hansen said.
Justice said he has confidence the expanded approach will work but if it doesn’t he won’t stop.
“I don’t know if this next step will fix it but if it won’t fix it then we need to do the next and the next and the next. We need to fix it,” Justice said. “We’re too good a place and too good a people. This problem is too serious to dink around with.”
The goals, according to Hansen, will be to reduce overdose deaths, get more people into treatment, direct the state’s youth from going down the path of drug addiction and help people in recovery to find employment.
Hansen told Justice Monday.
“I’m ready to go governor.”
The state Office of Control Policy hasn’t had much consistency since it was created by state lawmakers in 2017. Former Huntington Police Chief Jim Johnson was its first director. He began on Sept. 1, 2017 but only held the job a few months before retiring. DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch then named Dr. Michael Brumage to the post this past February but he only stayed on the job for seven weeks. Susie Mullens was appointed interim director after Brumage left. Nancy Sullivan is currently the interim director.