addiction crisis

Rebecca Kiger

Researchers at Harvard University and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that rural Americans identified drug addiction and economic concerns as the most serious problems facing their communities.

The An open-ended survey of 2700 rural adults aimed to identify the major concerns of rural voters, and found that 25 percent of rural Americans said drug addiction was their biggest concern for their community, and 21 percent said the same about economic concerns. The striking illustrate the dramatic toll of addiction on rural communities, which have generally struggled to recover from the 2009 recession.


Alexandra Kanik I Ohio Valley ReSource

The year: 2009. A Senator from Illinois named Barack Obama has just made history upon taking the presidential oath of office. The national economy is at a low point in the Great Recession. And the Pittsburgh Steelers are the first NFL team to win six Super Bowls.

Ten years later, as 2019 gives way to a new decade, the country is a radically different place, and the Ohio Valley is no exception.

The region’s economy improved, but more slowly and more modestly than for the nation as a whole. Coal, the Ohio Valley’s bedrock industry, declined sharply, bringing turmoil and uncertainty to the communities that had long depended on mining and burning coal for jobs. And an addiction crisis just coming into view in 2009 took a terrible toll on the region as it became a nationwide epidemic.

The Ohio Valley ReSource took a look at the trends that have shaped the region over the past ten years, and the data behind those trends in the Ohio Valley’s economy, environment and health.


AMA

Dr. Patrice Harris took the oath in June to become the first African-American woman to serve as president of the powerful American Medical Association, the largest professional association for physicians in the United States.

Harris also brings another unique perspective to the task as someone who grew up in rural Appalachia.

"I was born and raised in Bluefield, West Virginia, in the heart of coal country," Harris said. "My father worked on the railroad. My mother taught school. So I have a unique and personal connection and understanding of the region."


Aaron Payne

Addiction specialists, business leaders, law enforcement officials and other community members gathered around tables at Shawnee State University to talk about two big challenges in Scioto County, Ohio: a shrinking economy and a growing addiction crisis.

The Appalachian Regional Commission brought them together as part of a listening tour to learn about connections between addiction recovery and economic recovery.


Rebecca Kiger

A Washington Post investigation finds the Ohio Valley is suffering the most from the surge in overdose deaths due to synthetic opioids, even as deaths from other substances are falling.

The Post analyzed data from the Centers for Disease Control and found the region has the nation’s highest rates of death due to fentanyl.

Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia together had eight of the ten counties with the highest annual rate of synthetic opioid deaths between 2013 and 2018, according to the Washington Post’s analysis of CDC data.


A Growing Recovery: Food Service And Farming Jobs Provide A Path Out Of Addiction

May 20, 2019
Brittany Patterson

It’s lunch hour, and Cafe Appalachia is bustling.

Located in South Charleston, West Virginia, the former church turned restaurant has a funky, yet calming vibe. Twinkle lights and mismatched dining room sets dot the space. For $8 to $10 a plate, diners can enjoy a locally-sourced meal. The menu today is apple sage pork tips, spiralized zucchini (or “zoodles”), roasted broccoli, and a salad of spinach grown just a few miles away.

Autumn McCraw helped prepare today’s meal. The 35-year-old Charleston resident sports a maroon apron and greets every customer with a smile. Her days here typically start around 8 a.m.


Rebecca Kiger

The Appalachian Regional Commission announced Thursday another $22.8 million in funding to 33 projects aimed at revitalizing economies in places affected by the decline in the coal industry.

The awards are the latest in the ARC’s POWER Initiative, an acronym for Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization. Congress has funded the initiative for four years specifically to help communities affected by job losses in the Appalachian coal industry.


Aaron Payne

Sue Meeks has worked with children for years as a registered nurse.

Meeks manages the family navigator program at Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine in Athens, Ohio.

Several years ago, she started noticing three and four-year-olds coming into the program with certain distinctive behaviors.

“Children that appear to be neurologically very overstimulated,” she said. “They often aren’t social in your typical way. They don’t respond to trying to calm them or trying to divert their attention to something else, laughing with them, or getting a response from reading.”

  

Ashton Marra, WVPB

When Dr. Rahul Gupta started work as West Virginia’s chief health officer his state was already ground zero for the opioid epidemic, with some of the nation’s highest rates of addiction and overdose fatalities.

That was 2015, and 735 state residents died from overdoses that year. 

Preliminary data for 2017 show there were 1,011 overdose deaths last year, a record high for the state.

“Not a day goes by that I’m not constantly thinking about it,” Gupta said. “We’re losing three, three-and-a-half West Virginians per day. So, the clock’s always ticking in my head.”


office of the Surgeon General

In a comprehensive new report on the opioid crisis, the U.S. surgeon general writes that stigma remains a major barrier to treatment and urges a more supportive approach to those in need.

Surgeon General Jerome Adams wrote in his Spotlight on Opioids report that stigma has prevented people with opioid use disorders from seeking treatment.

“The way we as a society view and address opioid use disorder must change,” Adams wrote. “Individual lives and the health of our nation depend on it.”

Senate Opioids Bill Takes Aim At Fentanyl Imports

Sep 19, 2018
Mary Meehan | Ohio Valley ReSource

The U.S. Senate has approved a bipartisan package to address the nation’s opioid crisis with more resources for addiction treatment and recovery and an emphasis on stopping the flow of the the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl.

The Senate approved the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018 by a 99-1 vote Monday night including a version of Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman’s Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention, or STOP, Act. Portman said he hopes to address the impact fentanyl has had on his constituents. Ohio has some of the nation’s highest overdoses death rates.


Aaron Payne

New data from the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health show a rare bright spot amid the opioid crisis. Fewer high schoolers in the region appear to be using opioids.

School officials in the Ohio Valley want to continue that trend with more school-based programs designed to help prevent substance use disorders. But these are not the same drug prevention programs many people remember from their school days.

These new prevention efforts use a different approach as officials learn from past mistakes. Drawing on evidence from prevention science, these programs emphasize the behavioral health issues tied closely to addiction, rather than focusing on the drugs themselves.


Aaron Payne

Meredith Jensen is doing some gardening on a sunny day in a secluded part of Athens, Ohio.

“I’m working on our pollinator garden beds,” she said. “Which are a bunch of fun flowers that’ll help attract butterflies, bumble bees, you name it.”

Her partner Jamie Betit pushes a full wheel barrow to fill the other raised beds.

“We’ve got horse and goat compost here that’s packed full of nutrients, topsoil and ash,” he said.


Alexandra Kanik

Health officials in the Ohio Valley are investigating outbreaks of disease associated with needle drug use in what is emerging as a new public health threat from the region’s profound opioid addiction crisis.

In northern Kentucky the health department is tracking a cluster of 43 recent HIV cases, about half of which are related to needle drug use. In West Virginia, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just released a report on 40 new HIV cases diagnosed in 2017 in 15 mostly rural counties.


Ashton Marra, WVPB

The Ohio Valley’s numbers on the opioid crisis are grim, especially so in West Virginia, which has the nation’s highest rate of overdose deaths.

But those numbers could give health workers the ability to identify people at risk of drug overdose and then reach them before they die.

That’s what researchers from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources were hoping for when they built a data profile from statistics on the 830 residents who fatally overdosed in 2016.


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