- Associated Press - Saturday, October 17, 2015

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia is struggling to provide enough clinics and long-term treatment programs to help substance abuse addicts, health professionals say.

Bureau of Behavioral Health and Health Facilities deputy commissioner Kim Walsh said state treatment facilities are equipped with about 750 beds, including more than 300 that have opened in the last two years.

West Virginia University School of Behavioral Medicine and Psychiatry vice chairman Carl Sullivan told the Charleston Gazette-Mail (https://bit.ly/1OBgfi3) that the state doesn’t have enough clinics and therapists to help addicts.

“If you have an opioid dependency, unless you have lots of money, you’re in trouble,” Sullivan said.

According to the West Virginia Behavioral Health Providers Association, about 15,000 people received drug or alcohol abuse treatment in 2014. And Department of Health and Human Resources figures show nearly 60,000 West Virginians were identified as in need of substance abuse treatment.

Walsh said the state has 130 beds are in detoxification/crisis stabilization centers with an average stay of seven to 10 days. About 100 beds are in residential programs that are 28 days or longer, and the rest are in recovery residence programs usually catering to those who have gone through detoxification and need long-term recovery support.

Walsh said about 140 new facility treatment beds will be ready in the coming months.

In September, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced the launch of a statewide 24-hour substance abuse and mental health call line. Callers are connected with staff to help determine the most appropriate treatment option.

A month ago, WVU Medicine’s call center started putting callers on a waiting list for opioid abuse treatment. Before, the center had a first-come, first-served policy. The waiting list is now one year for treatment.

“And we don’t advertise that we treat opioid addiction,” Sullivan said. “This is all word of mouth.”

Walsh said the state’s largest long-term treatment facility, Recovery Point of Huntington, has more than 100 beds but has a waiting list of up to six months. Recovery Point plans to open a women’s treatment facility in Charleston next spring with up to 30 beds.

After a 2010 arrest, Aaron Chaffins entered Recovery Point and has been sober since February 2013. He now serves as a peer mentor there.

“I was born in Kentucky, but West Virginia saved my life,” he said.

President Barack Obama plans to visit Charleston on Wednesday to discuss prescription drug and heroin abuse.

West Virginia has the highest drug overdose death rate in the nation at nearly 34 deaths per 100,000 people - more than twice the national average. Nearly 90 percent of those deaths since 2011 have been caused by heroin and prescription pain pills.


Information from: The Charleston Gazette-Mail, https://wvgazettemail.com.

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