Huntington, state leaders to share anti-opioids expertise at national conference
HUNTINGTON — This week, state legislators from across the country are convening in Cincinnati to learn about policy and issues affecting the country, and they will hear from West Virginia leaders.
State Del. Matt Rohrbach, R-Cabell, is taking a group of Huntington entities to share the work they are doing to combat the opioid epidemic. Huntington Police Chief Hank Dial, Director of PROACT Michael Haney and representatives from the Huntington Quick Response Team and Lily’s Place will join Rohrbach on a panel Wednesday during the conference’s policy academy: “Promising Approaches for America’s Addiction Crisis.”
Secretary of State Mac Warner will send his Assistant to the Chief of Staff Adam Young and Elections Specialist Nathan Martin to speak on election security. West Virginia was the first state to allow overseas voters to use an app to vote.
“This is yet another great example of West Virginia’s efforts and accomplishments of leading the nation in planning for and providing free, fair and secure elections,” Warner said in a release.
Rohrbach said he chose the four entities after thinking about what a national audience would most want to hear. He said it’s not to say other groups in Huntington aren’t doing amazing work, but the four are doing the most out-of-the-box work.
“PROACT is a really interesting model that a lot of people around the country could learn from because it’s an attempt to take all people with substance abuse problems in the hospital for various medical problems, mainly substance abuse related, and when they get out they attempt to give them some aftercare from medical-assistant treatment, counseling and social support so hopefully they don’t end up back in hospital, which unfortunately is what seems to be happening,” Rohrbach said.
The Quick Response Team, or QRT, works similarly to end the revolving door of addiction, reaching out and visiting those recently treated by EMS workers with Narcan, the overdose reversal drug, with the end goal of getting them into a treatment program. During the last session, the Legislature passed a bill to expand QRTs across the state.
Rohrbach said he wants Dial to share HPD’s policing tactics, in particular the department’s “hot mapping” system, which tracks overdoses in real time.
“When they start to realize that there is a really high rate of overdoses going on, they get on top of that and get resources moving to handle the situation,” Rohrbach said. “The other thing would be to get the word out in community that there is a particularly lethal dose of heroin.”
Last but not least is Lily’s Place, a first-of-its-kind facility to care for babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome after being exposed to addictive substances in the womb and their families. Lily’s Place has inspired both federal and state legislation to increase the number of similar facilities.
Rohrbach said he is excited to share what Huntington has done but also to learn what other communities are doing. He said he hopes to bring ideas back to the state and community.
“I don’t think we alone have a substance abuse problem and I’m not saying someone else doesn’t have ideas we can be looking at,” he said.
The conference began Tuesday and lasts through the weekend.
Follow reporter Taylor Stuck on Twitter and Facebook @TaylorStuckHD.