CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Huntington Mayor Steve Williams has said the Kanawha Valley and his city is becoming known as the epicenter of the solution to the opioid crisis, not the epicenter of the issue.
Williams spoke those words Tuesday in Charleston in an honoring of some of those solutions coming from local organizations across the state by the Addiction Policy Forum (APF).
An awards ceremony was held to recognize 10 programs for innovation in prevention and treatment of addiction with Williams as the keynote speaker.
Kimberly Clapp, the Executive Vice President of Community Engagement for APF, said Tuesday was about recognition and spreading positive news and results.
“You hear so much about the negative aspect of this crisis,” Clapp said. “Today (Tuesday) we are focusing on the positive things people are doing on the ground to make a difference.”
APF is a national non-profit organization based in Washington D.C. with chapters in every state.
Clapp said APF scouted the area for a keynote speaker and turned out to be an easy choice with Williams. She said, “so many arrows pointed to Williams,” when they were asking about who is making a difference on the ground in West Virginia.
Williams spoke highly of the programs being honored from law enforcement,treatment, prevention, child welfare and public health, saying, “Every person here has answered the call.”
The innovative programs honored were Project Hope for Women and Children, Lily’s Place, Provider Response Organization for Addiction Care and Treatment (PROACT), Quick Response Team, Boone County Drug Court, Jefferson Day Report Center, Recovery Point, Jackson County Anti-Drug Coalition, Handle With Care, and WVU, Dr. James Berry, DO.
Clapp agreed with the sentiment from Williams that in West Virginia and in particular his area they are being a major part of the solution. She said the local programs being honored Tuesday can be used everywhere.
“They are doing things that can be scaled up across the country,” Clapp said. “That’s part of our job at Addiction Policy Forum is to make sure the country knows the good things happening in West Virginia so they can be replicated in other communities to save lives in the midst of the opioid crisis.”
According to APF, 974 West Virginia residents died from a drug overdose in 2017. The Center for Disease Control reported West Virginia had the highest drug overdose death rate in 2017 with 57.8 deaths per 100,000 people.
“It takes every sector of society to come together and tackle addiction,” Clapp said. “It’s too big to ask one organization or one government official to make a difference.
“To get them all together here in one room where they can share best practices, share what works, maybe refer to each other is the way we are going to solve this addiction crisis.”