ATTORNEY GENERAL: A team approach to fighting opioid abuse

Patrick Morrisey
Special to the News Tribune
Patrick Morrisey

Opioid abuse is a blight that has impacted thousands of West Virginians – a deadly scourge so large that beating it will require a holistic, team approach.

Every culpable actor must be held accountable. This includes the pharmaceutical supply channel, consulting firms and the government itself.

Whenever large settlements come to pass, people ask, and rightfully so, where the money will go.

I believe these monies should go toward fixing the actual problem. We cannot repeat the mistakes of the tobacco settlement. The money shouldn’t go to random pork projects or exorbitant legal fees that do nothing to address the fundamentals of the opioid epidemic.

Attorneys need to get paid for the work they do, but we also must put West Virginia citizens first and make sure we use as much money as possible to help people.

That means financial support for recovery and treatment to help people get better in the head and in the heart, as well as money for education, prevention and enforcement. We have been discussing this with legislators, counties, cities, hospitals and others litigating this matter in hopes of reaching an agreement that will benefit all West Virginians.

It is my hope that our team approach will use all monies received through opioid litigation to fund the Governor’s Substance Abuse Plan. Their advisory council will work with our office to ensure that no region gets left behind.

When you have a good plan, and you combine it with the resources and structural pieces that we’re bringing to bear, it could be a crown jewel for our state and provide a funding stream that has long-term, generational benefits for West Virginia and her citizens.

In these settlement agreements, I have rejected formulas that calculate settlement amounts based upon a state’s population alone. We do so because we want agreements that reflect the disproportionate harm done in West Virginia – in other words, severity.

Even if it’s one state against 49 states, we’re going to stand strong and put West Virginia first.

This fight cannot be won by one entity alone. It is an uphill battle in a war against senseless death, but we can work together to maximize settlement dollars to achieve the greatest benefit for the most people.

There is no amount of money that can wipe away the harm and death, but we must hold those accountable who fueled this epidemic and affect lasting change.

West Virginia, like many other states, must focus on recovery to avoid sending settlement dollars down a black hole or to pork projects.

Our team approach will utilize real experts with real experience, physicians, nurses and healthcare administrators. This will ensure appropriate spending and that the money does not run out in two, three or four years.

This money should last the test of time, and that’s what I’m fighting for to help West Virginia reach her full potential.

Patrick Morrisey is the Attorney General of West Virginia.