West Virginia is implementing new policies to limit opioid prescriptions. Opioids include drugs like hydrocodone and oxycodone. The new law exempts cancer patients and patients receiving hospice or palliative care, who may need these strong pain medications. Even though these patients are exempt, providers are taking great care to ensure that the drugs are only prescribed when really needed and discontinued when other measures are more effective. Hospice providers are also encouraging the safe disposal of opioids when they are no longer in use or after patients die.
West Virginia’s Office of Drug Control Policy has recently launched its substance use disorder strategic plan. Speaking at public meetings around the state, DHHR’s Assistant Cabinet Secretary, Nancy Sullivan, emphasized that substance use disorder is a disease. The new plan will focus on prevention first, treatment and recovery.
Prevention of abuse is also an important strategy for hospices. There are policies to safeguard medications and education is provided to patients and families to ensure medications are taken as ordered. When there is someone with a substance use disorder in a family, they need help. There are two new resources in West Virginia. The first is Help and Hope WV which connects people to information, tools, directory of services and events around the state. If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use or mental health issues, there is a helpline 844HELP4WV or 1-844-435-7498.
The other resource is the website StigmaFreeWV, which provides information about the types of stigma experienced by those with this disease, stories of recovery and how people can get involved. Substance Use Disorder is a disease that has had a devastating impact on West Virginia. There were more than a thousand overdose deaths in WV in 2017 and the number is likely much higher according to experts. We all need to learn more and support all the great efforts to combat WV’s opioid epidemic.