In the Wilderness of Scary West Virginia

By Andrew Gload

In the summer after my freshman year, I went on an ASP trip to West Virginia to a less fortunate area. I was assigned to rebuild a house. Over the course of a week, my team and I transformed a broken-down house that sheltered 5 family members. We completely rebuilt their ceiling, walls, and insulation. We also had a team on the outside repainting the walls. This is a perfect example of improving public health and improving the quality of health. The one thing that everyone knew was going on was an opioid epidemic. The town we were in was infiltrated by opioids which were killing and harming people who were addicted to them. This epidemic is a prime example of a public health problem. I didn’t expect to see this kind of stuff when I first heard about the trip. 

Mental Health- The opioids in this area are mentally and physically draining the town and are not allowing them to function well enough to try to get a job or fix things themselves

Access to Medical Insurance- This family in West Virginia did not have access to medical care. The closest hospital to the town was 35 minutes away.

  • What public health problem is present in your story?
    • How common is that problem? 

Thirty-two percent of American adults have received a prescription for opioids in the past two years, according to a new AmeriSpeak® Spotlight on Health survey from NORC at the University of Chicago. Nearly one in five adults (18 percent) have received a prescription for opioids in the past year.

  • How bad is that problem?  

As the opioid epidemic worsens in the United States, the toll it imposes on the US economy has risen to staggering heights. The White House Council of Economic Advisers recently estimated the economic burden, inclusive of the value of statistical lives lost, to be $504 billion in 2015. More narrowly constructed estimates find cost burdens as high as $95 billion in 2016.

  • Who experiences that problem?

People heavily impacted by the opioid overdose epidemic include veterans, younger adults (25-to-34-year-olds), older adults (45-to-54-year-olds), and American Indians/Alaska Natives.

  • What non-profit organization is already trying to solve the problem you identified?
    • Who are they?  The Voices Project and Sandgaard Foundation.
    • What do they do? 

Together, the organizations committed to increasing access to naloxone and overdose response training in recovery residences, also known as sober livings, across the United States, support bold media efforts to eliminate stigma for those impacted by substance use disorder, and empower people in recovery through organizing and leadership tools to create meaningful and sustainable impact in their communities.

  • What do THEY suggest would need to happen for this problem to be solved?

Emergency rooms and first responders, treatment professionals, healthcare providers, jails and institutions, and community resources are overwhelmed. It’s clear that we need a better, smarter, and more inclusive approach to recovery that affects every aspect of American culture. The Voices Project calls for radical, immediate reform. We need both direct action and policy change at the national level in order to stop the drug epidemic and save lives. The Voices Project connects the voices of grassroots organizers with decision-makers from the State House to the White House to ensure that recovery solutions are a priority.

  • What can one person do to help, right now?

Go to https://voicesriseup.org/ and donate today or get connected if you or a loved one is being affected by this epidemic.

Categories: Home, op ed

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