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Post-addiction job training is detailed

January 11, 2019

CHARLESTON — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice is requesting legislators pass him the ball to tackle substance use disorder still ravaging the state by allowing him to implement what he’s titled “Jim’s Dream.”

In Wednesday’s State of the State address, Justice asked for trust as he described his workforce training program that will pair with treatment of substance use disorders.

“I want it to be a dream that we can take our people off this terrible drug trail — and we can put them in a job, and we can give them real, live hope,” he said.

During a news conference Thursday, he explained in a little more detail what “Jim’s Dream” would look like.

First, Justice is asking for $5 million for prevention, saying Thursday he wants more prevention efforts directed toward younger children.

The next arm of the “Dream” is treatment, which Justice wants to provide at no

cost to the patient. He wants to allocate $10 million to the Department of Health and Human Resources for this.

The next step is workforce training. Working with the state Department of Education’s adult education program, Justice wants to allocate $10 million to provide training at the state’s vocational centers.

Justice also wants to use $20 million of the $185 million surplus that has already accumulated for fiscal year 2019 to purchase the equipment necessary for the vocational training program.

Justice said those without substance use disorders would also be able to attend the training program, but everyone will need to pass a drug test.

Those who complete the workforce training would then be eligible to have any misdemeanor convictions expunged from their records. Later, Justice added he isn’t married to the idea of just expunging misdemeanors and would consider expunging nonviolent felony convictions as well.

Currently, under the Second Chance Employment Act, nonviolent felonies can be reduced to misdemeanors after 10 years of a clear record.

Justice said he wants the capacity to train 1,000 people every 90 days.

“That seems unbelievable, doesn’t it?” Justice said. “If you don’t set your sights high, you won’t ever accomplish anything. The net of the whole is this: You have to train these people to do something that they can genuinely do.”

Later in the House Committee on the Prevention and Treatment of Substance Abuse, DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch said “Jim’s Dream” is an innovative approach no other states have attempted.

“The way I think about this is the way hospitals think about patients who are admitted,” Crouch said. “One of the first things you learn when you work in a hospital is you start planning for discharge as soon as you are admitted. That’s what we really haven’t done very well.”

Crouch also said the department has early childhood specialists looking into what the appropriate age is to begin prevention education in elementary schools.

Justice said he hopes he gets a chance to use the play he’s set on the table.

Follow reporter Taylor Stuck on Twitter and Facebook @TaylorStuckHD.

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