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Stollings says “getting arms around” opioid epidemic key to state’s future

MADISON, W.Va. — State Senator Ron Stollings says if elected governor he would establish the Governor’s Office of Substance Abuse to serve as a clearinghouse for funding and programs to battle the ongoing opioid epidemic.

Stollings, during an appearance Tuesday on MetroNews “Talkline,” said such an office could help point the state’s response in the right direction.

“We’re getting a lot of federal funding being kicked out into particularly these federally qualified health centers, use that to the degree you can,” Stollings said. “Any settlement dollars have to be used wisely and in some cases it needs to be held back in a future fund because we really don’t know what’s going to happen to these children.”

Stollings said he’s very concerned to children who have been impacted by drugs at birth. Those associated with neonatal abstinence syndrome.

“If we don’t spend money early on in these children’s lives and these grand-families who we need to support then we’re not going to have enough money at the end of the system, such as jail costs and societal costs,” Stollings said. “Less invest early up front. It can potentially save you money down the line.”

The legislature created the state Office of Drug Control Policy in a bill in passed in April 2017. The office is under the state Department of Health and Human Resources. It’s responsible for providing administrative support and funding to combating substance abuse, as well as collect crime and overdose data.

Stollings, a 34-year practicing physician in Boone County, has focused his campaign on the opioid response. In a new television ad, Stollings says the state can’t move forward “unless we get our arms around this opioid disorder.”

Stollings said state lawmakers have taken some steps in recent years to address the epidemic including limiting the prescription of opioids and given primary care physicians more opportunity to help with long-term treatment but he said more should be done. He said he wants to take what has worked in places like Huntington and Martinsburg to communities statewide.

When asked Tuesday if he has ever over-prescribed opioids, Stollings said doctors didn’t know what they currently know.

“I think in general everyone (doctors) tended to be a little too liberal but that’s 20-20 hindsight,” he said. “Back in those days we were told, ‘Look if they’re taking it for pain and not for a buzz you have a very slight chance of being addicted,’ now we know different.”

Stollings said substance use disorder is a disease and the stigma that comes with it should be eliminated.

“Most people that have been around this a long time, folks at WVU and Marshall, folks who get it absolutely agree with me on that,” Stollings said.

Stollings is one of several candidates who plan on seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for governor in next May’s primary election. Other announced Democrats include Stephen Smith, Jody Murphy and Ben Salango.

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