West Virginia, with its horrific problems with prescription medications and heroin has a long way to go toward getting a grip on the rampant substance-abuse problem and developing a strategy that provides people the help they need to pull themselves out of addiction. As reported in www.herald-dispatch.com.
Interestingly, they might want to look toward Oregon and its approaches as a guide. In the Beaver State, helping addicts get the treatment they need is viewed not only as the right thing to do in terms of saving lives, but also as a practical way to save money in the long-term.
High addiction rates are well-known to West Virginians. The state has the second highest drug overdose rate among the states, at 25.8 per 100,000 people in 2008.
So far, West Virginia has invested relatively little in treatment programs. But it's become clear that it must.
Oregon, on the other hand, has chosen to invest significantly on addiction treatment, to the tune of about $51 million a year now. Officials there believe in the research that says treatment saves lives, reduces crime and medical expenses, and boosts employment. The bottom line, officials there say, is that every dollar spent on treatment actually saves an average of $7.
Oregon's drug overdose death rate is less than half of West Virginia's, and about 50 percent lower than Kentucky's. Oregon admits more than twice as many addicts for treatment as Kentucky.
Perhaps the biggest factor in Oregon's approach is that its Medicaid program covers substance abuse treatment. Also key for Oregon is coordination among state and local governments and provider and support groups.
More drug classes and treatment create a much better framework for rehabilitation.