- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:

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July 15

Charleston (West Virginia) Daily Mail on higher education:

Despite recent decisions to raise tuition at some state four-year colleges and universities, affordable options remain.

The Community and Technical College System of West Virginia announced Tuesday that four two-year institutions have been named among the most affordable in the United States. BridgeValley, Southern West Virginia, West Virginia Northern and Eastern West Virginia all earned the distinction, according to the 2015 College Affordability and Transparency Center list, released by the U.S. Department of Education.

The annual list compares the affordability of public and private colleges and universities that grant two- and four-year degrees based on data collected between 2013 and 2014.

Some CTC graduates are already seeing their education pay off. The first class of graduates from the Pierpont and Northern CTC Petroleum Technology programs earned their diplomas in May, and eight of the 10 graduates have already found industry jobs - some of them paying upwards of $26 an hour. Approximately 90 students comprise the program’s second class.

As the natural gas industry continues to grow, it is imperative West Virginia’s students are armed with the knowledge and experience jobs in that industry require.

Not all students are cut from the same cloth. It is unfair to push all students toward the four-year college track when they might have interests and abilities that lie elsewhere. Additionally, the high cost of a four-year degree price some students out.

With community and technical colleges remaining an affordable, viable option, perhaps we’ll see more of West Virginia’s students succeed in the classroom and in the work force.

Such success benefits all of West Virginia.

Online:

http://www.charlestondailymail.com

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July 13

Herald-Dispatch, Huntington, West Virginia, on syringe program:

Officials in Cabell County have been working for months on ways to respond to the impact of a skyrocketing heroin addiction problem in the region, one that’s also reflective of what’s happening in many other parts of West Virginia.

Leading the way have been officials with the Cabell-Huntington Health Department and the Huntington Mayor’s Office of Drug Control Policy, with about 30 other partner agencies also involved. The focus has been on establishing what health officials call a harm reduction program that not only hopes to steer addicts toward treatment and recovery but also provide a syringe-exchange program so that needles are not reused and contributing to the spread of hepatitis and setting the stage for an outbreak of HIV.

The health department’s board approved the syringe-exchange program on June 25, setting an expected start date of Sept. 1 for the state’s first syringe-exchange initiative.

What seemed to be lacking was state involvement, at least publicly. That finally changed on July 2, when Dr. Rahul Gupta, commissioner of the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health, and Karen Bowling, secretary of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, showed up in Huntington. They announced that the DHHR would contribute $10,000 cash and $10,000 in technical support toward the program. They described the Cabell County initiative as a pilot program for the state that can help guide future efforts to combat the rise in overdoses, overdose deaths and the diseases that accompany intravenous drug use and needle sharing. In that context, it’s somewhat disappointing that the state isn’t contributing more, considering the ramifications of the heroin epidemic.

Gupta noted that West Virginia ranks first among all states in incidence of Hepatitis B, with a rate of 10.6 cases per 100,000 people, as opposed to the national rate of 0.9 per 100,000. He also pointed out that the state’s rate of Hepatitis C is also alarming.

Just as alarming, if not more so, is that overdose deaths in the state have increased 600 percent in the past 10 years, as Bowling reminded those at the July 2 press conference.

That far-reaching impact is why the state’s involvement is warranted, in fact overdue.

Along with giving heroin users a free, clean needle without repercussions, the program being implemented in Cabell County would also provide them with education about recovery services and how to prevent the spread of disease, as well as testing for disease, giving referral for treatment and offering peer recovery counseling. The hope is that many will seek help to end their addiction. A similarly designed program in Portsmouth, Ohio, has reported good results.

The state’s contribution no doubt will help Cabell County’s program get off the ground, but local officials say a top-notch initiative that they envision could cost as much as $250,000 a year. Local officials are seeking other grant funds to help support it, but West Virginia officials should be prepared to kick in more funding to ensure that the county’s initiative has a sufficient test to determine its effectiveness.

As Huntington Mayor Steve Williams and others have noted, addressing the state’s drug addiction problem is vital for the state to move forward economically. Another factor is that besides the loss of life, the cost of treating diseases associated with intravenous drug use is a burden for taxpayers in many cases.

That’s why the state should not hesitate to invest more in this program if needed to ensure it has a good opportunity to make a difference and serve as a proving ground for other areas of the state.

Online:

http://www.register-herald.com

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