A pair of emotional floor speeches at the state legislature Wednesday spotlighted West Virginia’s growing substance abuse problem.
Delegate Don Perdue, D-Wayne, and Senator Mike Green, D-Raleigh, were almost giving their separate speeches simultaneously during morning floor sessions. Both spent time talking about people they know who recently died because of substance abuse.
Del. Perdue talked about Tina, who needed help in dealing with substance abuse, but failed to get it from the state.
“At a time early in her addiction when she might have been rescued, there simply weren’t any facilities available,” Perdue said. “About 300 long-term beds some six years ago. And you know what? We have about the same number for long-term treatment (today).”
Sen. Green told of a family member who died earlier this month in connection with substance abuse.
“Three-thirty in the morning out looking for a fix–he’s walking down the center line in Wyoming County–and he gets hit by a coal truck,” Green said.
The man, who was a star athlete in high school and went to college, got hooked on prescription drugs according to the senator. Green says public assistance helped fuel his addiction for the past eight years.
“He did nothing with that assistance. Absolutely nothing productive, nothing constructive, except to purchase illegal drugs,” Sen. Green said.
Sen. Green is calling for fellow senators to support a bill that would require drug testing for those receiving public assistance. He says the bill calls for a third-party to be used to make sure young children in those families get the assistance they need.
Del. Perdue has been pushing for increased funding for substance abuse treatment centers. He says raising the tobacco tax would be a good way to get the funding.
Perdue says his friend received care from Hospice at the end of her life, something she didn’t have to pay for. He says he wishes the state was as generous.
“Tina didn’t have to have money to close her life but our state could not find the funding it would have taken to keep it open,” Perdue said. “Open at only 38 years of age to the immense possibilities the prime of life can bring.”
“I pray God judges us with the greatest passion when it comes to these that we have failed and continue to fail,” the delegate said.