(Huntington) Herald-Dispatch. June 1, 2021.

Editorial: Local addiction treatment programs need continued support

The federal trial in Charleston of the civil suit by Huntington and Cabell County has ended its fourth week, with more to come.

In its civil suit, the city and the county accuse the “Big Three” drug wholesalers — AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson — of sending excessive shipments of opioids into the area for eight years, before a reduction in the number of pills shipped made users turn to illicit drugs.

While the trial continues, local efforts continue to deal with the effects of illegal drug use. There have been successes, but more remains to be done.

In recent years, Huntington has developed a reputation for being a “city of solutions.” After making national headlines as a place ravaged by opioid misuse, addiction and related crimes and tragedies, government, education and health leaders banded together to not only take back Huntington’s reputation but also reinvent it as a town where problems are met head-on and solved by the community’s teamwork.

Law enforcement has performed its role, but repairing the damage goes beyond putting dealers in jail. Local residents have developed networks of programs aimed at helping people who have become addicted to drugs. That means helping their families.

Among those programs are Lily’s Place (a nursery purpose-built to serve infants with neonatal abstinence syndrome) and Project Hope (a comprehensive treatment facility for women and their children). Another example is the Ronald McDonald House, which provides lodging for families in need — families who need to stay near our medical facilities because their children are sick.

Beyond serving as a roof over their heads, the Ronald McDonald House also becomes a hub of support and resources for these families and their various, sometimes changing, needs. One of those needs is for a network tailored to meet the needs of mothers recovering from substance abuse, whose babies require a stay in the neonatal therapeutic unit due to their use of treatment medicines during pregnancy.

National health leaders, including former First Lady Melania Trump, have visited Huntington to laud the community’s commitment to lessening the stigma around substance abuse and its multifaceted approach to healing those who have struggled with addiction.

During Trump’s 2019 visit to the city, connection and empathy were touted as one of the main reasons Huntington and Cabell County’s programs — both for adults and for the children in their lives who also are affected — have worked. Her questions and interest focused on those children, and for good reason. Much is still being learned about how parents’ drug use may affect these youth as they grow up.

If the city and the county prevail in their case against the drug companies, they could recover money to continue and expand programs that are underway or create new ones to adapt to the problem and it changes.

The effects of this addiction epidemic will be with us for years. It has consumed resources that could have been used elsewhere, and it likely has hindered efforts to attract private investment to the region. Worst, it has harmed a generation of children.

Nevertheless, local efforts continue, and they will continue to need the support of local residents and funding agencies to remain a model for how other cities can approach this problem.


Charleston Gazette-Mail. May 26, 2021.

Editorial: Does Justice understand basics of incentives?

“Now Bart, we made this deal because I thought it would help you get good grades, and you didn’t. But why should you pay for my mistake?” — Homer Simpson.

The thing about incentives is that they rely on certain conditions. If those conditions aren’t met, but one party still gets the benefit anyway, what’s the point?

That’s what we’d ask of Gov. Jim Justice, who recently challenged the state to get to a 65% COVID-19 vaccination rate by June 20 — West Virginia Day. If West Virginians hit that mark, Justice said he’d repeal his mandate that masks be worn indoors at all businesses and public buildings. Now, Justice says he’ll repeal the mandate by June 20, whether the state hits that mark or not. Again, what’s the point?

Not all of this is on Justice. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently stated that those who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 no longer had to wear masks outdoors, then updated that advisory to say they didn’t have to wear masks at all. That part was taken out of the governor’s hands.

However, there are many things Justice could’ve done — and still could do — differently as it pertains to the majority of state residents who are not vaccinated.

For one thing, he needs to make clear exactly which set of numbers he’s looking at for that target. The percentage of those vaccinated against the entire state population is about 10 percentage points lower than the vaccination rate among those eligible for the vaccine — meaning anyone 12 years old on up.

He also seems to vacillate between going by the percentage of those who have been fully vaccinated — meaning they’ve received both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine — and those who have only had a first dose. If he’s going by first dose only, then 65% by June 20 certainly seems achievable. It looks less likely if looking at fully vaccinated rates.

It’s also important to note that a first dose of the two-dose vaccines does not protect a person against COVID-19 at a high rate at all. Going by first dose numbers is dangerous public health policy.

Justice also has loosened his grip on the vaccination effort. He still hasn’t opened his COVID-19 briefings up to reporters in person, and he’s slackened from giving updates three times a week to two. That’s not going to help get more people vaccinated.

The biggest problem, though, is that Justice has rendered that June 20 incentive moot. If he’s going to lift mask mandates on June 20 anyway, why would anyone avoiding the vaccine — for whatever reason — suddenly go get the shot? Yes, the state also is offering $100 for those between the ages of 16 and 35 to get vaccinated, but Justice has been dangling that carrot in a couple of different forms for a while and it hasn’t made a noticeable impact.

That’s not to say it still couldn’t. Hopefully, people will be getting vaccines at a higher rate. But Justice really seems to be less and less interested and involved with the effort as the spring stretches on.

This is the guy who has urged West Virginians not to give up at the finish line, but to sprint across strongly. He’s said the faster West Virginians get vaccinated, the faster all of this comes to a close. Now, he’s the one pulling up and walking the last 100 yards and implying through his actions that no one else needs to really worry about it, either.


(Martinsburg) The Journal-News. May 29, 2021.

Editorial: Feds launch war on reliable energy

It’s not been too many years back that we recall the late Robert Murray, founder and longtime leader of Murray Energy Corp., telling us of how then-President Barack Obama’s administration was pushing the nation’s large financial institutions to stop lending to energy companies — particularly those companies that mined coal.

While that effort by the Obama Administration didn’t immediately bear fruit, it seems that President Biden and his administration are now back at the tree with the watering can. But this time it’s not just coal mining that’s in their sights; it’s also oil and natural gas.

The revelation on the administration’s latest war on sources of reliable energy that power the nation came from Politico, which reported that Secretary of State John Kerry has been pushing banks in the U.S. to focus more on climate change mitigation. Part of that effort is subtle pressure for banks to stop lending to companies that extract energy from the ground — coal, oil and natural gas.

West Virginia Treasurer Riley Moore is one of 15 state treasurers calling out the Biden Administration for its tactics.

By itself, a group of 15 state treasurers — many from smaller, energy-rich states — wouldn’t have enough clout to make a difference. To swing the pendulum, though, the treasurers are threatening to pull their holdings —a combined $600 billion in pension plans and other state assets — from banks that succumb to the administration’s tactics.

“... We strongly oppose command-and-control economic policies that attempt to bend the free market to the political will of government officials,” Moore said. “We refuse to allow the federal government to pick our critical industries as losers, based purely on President Biden’s own radical political preferences and ideologies.

“We intend to put banks and financial institutions on notice of our position, as we urge them not to give in to pressure from the Biden Administration to refuse to lend to or invest in coal, oil, and natural gas companies.”

That’s a strong stance, and one that Moore and the other 14 treasurers need to stand firm on in the coming years.

Coercion from the White House should not be used to influence a bank’s lending activities. But that’s where it appears we are today.

We applaud Moore for standing up against the continued federal energy overreach and urge him and other state treasurers to stand firm against Biden’s growing big government machine.