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DHHR seeks public comment on WV Substance Use Response Plan

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State health officials are encouraging public comment on the 2022 West Virginia Substance Use Response Plan.

Dr. Matthew Christiansen

Eight virtual public forums will be held over the next month to allow residents to review and provide input on the plan. The first meeting will be Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

The forums will be hosted by the state Department of Health and Human Resources’ Office of Drug Control Policy and the Governor’s Council on Substance Abuse Prevention.

Matthew Christiansen, director of the Office of Drug Control Policy, said the eight-part plan highlights existing initiatives and provides a framework of evidence-based goals, strategies and objectives to address current gaps and needs.

“We really want public feedback whether individuals think ideas are good or bad, we want to hear it because we really do incorporate that into our long term planning with regards to addiction, outreach and intervention,” Christiansen said.

The three-year plan was established by the governor in response to the opioid crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated those efforts, Christiansen said.

“COVID-19 impacted the treatment and recovery landscape and caused us to shutdown or restrict access to certain facilities to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It reduced participation in public forums. It increased unemployment, which we know is directly related to successful recovery,” he said.

Drugs are also becoming more potent and deadly.

“We do see an increase in the number of fatalities due to fentanyl, which is a very potent opioid, as well as increased rates of methamphetamine. Those are things that this plan addresses directly and head on,” Christiansen said.

State officials said there are several benefits to hosting the public forums online.

“One is that people can participate from wherever they are. They don’t need to travel to a central location. The other benefit of doing this virtually is that individuals can focus on the areas that they’re interested in,” Christiansen said.

The virtual public meetings will be held from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on the following dates:

November 9, 16, 18, 23 and 30

December 7, 9 and 14

Pre-registration is required HERE.

Attendees can download and review a summary of the plan prior to the meeting. Those who are unable to attend can download the plan and provide online feedback.

All feedback must be received by Dec. 16.

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