Aaron Payne

American Medical Association

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."

She earned her undergraduate degree in psychology, a master's degree in counseling psychology and medical degree from West Virginia University. Though she has long practiced psychiatry in Atlanta, Georgia, she keeps her connection to the region with regular home visits and by serving on the WVU Foundation board.


Aaron Payne/Ohio Valley ReSource

 

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.

Several speakers pointed out how the opioid epidemic has left employers with job openings and a workforce unprepared to fill them. 

Ohio Valley Still Leads Nation In Overdose Deaths

Nov 29, 2018
Mary Meehan

New federal data show the Ohio Valley again led the nation in rate of fatal drug overdoses last year. The data confirm what local officials have reported: synthetic opioids are fueling the increase.

West Virginia and Ohio had the nation’s highest rates of fatal drug overdoses in 2017 with 57.8 and 46.3 deaths per 100,000 people respectively.

Kentucky had the fifth-highest rate at 37.2 deaths per 100,000.

The new data from the Centers for Disease Control show the rates for these three states were above the national average

of 21.7.

 

Aaron Payne/Ohio Valley ReSource

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.

Mary.Meehan

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.

Aaron Payne/Ohio Valley ReSource

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.

 

Anthony Scott Lockard/Kentucky River Health District

In a room at the Letcher County Health Department in Whitesburg, Kentucky, about 20 people are learning how to use naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal medication.

Among them is 18-year-old Morgan Hopkins. An aspiring therapist, Hopkins said she wants to be ready with naloxone if someone overdoses around her.

 

“You never know what you’re going to see,” she said. “If anything goes wrong, you have it, rather than you don’t have it.”

Mary Meehan

Health officials in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia say the number of overdose deaths related to the opioid crisis continued to rise in 2017 as state data began to reflect the fatalities related to the powerful drug fentanyl.

A new report from the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy found 1,565 died from drug overdoses last year, up 11.5 percent from 2016.

Fentanyl played a factor in more than half of the overdose cases in which a toxicology report was available.

Aaron Payne/Ohio Valley ReSource

United Mine Workers President Cecil Roberts fired up a crowd of thousands of union workers in Columbus, Ohio, with a simple chant: “Fix it!”

The rally last week came on the eve of a Congressional field hearing on problems plaguing multiemployer pension programs like the one retired miners depend upon.

“When the people get to marching, the politicians get to listening,” Roberts roared.

Legislators grilled representatives from five major opioid distributors Tuesday on how painkillers flooded West Virginia under their watch.

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce hearing came as part of an investigation into why Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, McKesson, Miami-Luken and H.D. Smith failed to report suspiciously large orders of opioid painkillers at the beginning of the addiction crisis.

Aaron Payne/ Ohio Valley ReSource

 Social Autopsy

RAHUL GUPTA: If you have heart disease or you may be at risk of having heart disease there are a lot of risk factors. The doctor might often say you’re a walking heart attack about to happen and we need to do a set of things to lower your risk for that event

Trump Takes Enforcement Approach To Opioid Crisis

Jan 31, 2018

President Donald Trump addressed the opioid crisis affecting the Ohio Valley region in his first State of the Union address Tuesday night.

“We must get much tougher on drug dealers and pushers if we are going to succeed in stopping this scourge,” he said. “My administration is committed to fighting the drug epidemic and helping get treatment for those in need.”

 


Opioid Emergency Extended

Jan 22, 2018
Mary Meehan

Acting Health And Human Services Secretary Eric Hargan signed an order Friday to extend the public health emergency for 90 days. A post on the agency’s website, cited the continued consequences of the opioid crisis.


Aaron Payne | Ohio Valley ReSource

Imagine living and working somewhere designed to fit a couple hundred people. Now picture that same space crammed with twice that number. Madison County, Kentucky, Jailer Doug Thomas doesn’t have to imagine it. He lives it.

“I’m doing all that I can with what I have to work with, which is not a lot,” he said. “Because we’re a 184 bed facility with almost 400 people.”

 

Brian Burkhart

Two weeks ago, President Donald Trump declared the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency.

On this week's show, we discuss the meaning of that declaration and its potential impact on Kentucky.


Courtesy White House Office of the First Lady

EDITOR's NOTE: This story has been updated to include new information regarding the timing of an emergency declaration.

Many lawmakers from the Ohio Valley region are expected at the White House Thursday as President Donald Trump delivers an address on the opioid crisis. 

It is still not clear when the president will unveil a long-awaited emergency declaration on the epidemic. 


Rebecca Kiger

It’s been nearly one month since President Trump told a group of reporters he was declaring the opioid crisis a national emergency.

“The opioid crisis is an emergency, and I am saying, officially, right now, it is an emergency,”  the president said at his golf resort in New Jersey on August 10.  


Opioid Emergency: What the Ohio Valley Needs to Combat Crisis

Aug 21, 2017
Mary Meehan | Ohio Valley ReSource

The opioid crisis gripping the Ohio Valley is now, according to President Donald Trump, a national emergency.

But more than a week after the president made that announcement, state and local health officials in the region told the Ohio Valley ReSource that they have little information about what that emergency declaration actually means or what additional tools it will provide.