A1 A1
Real ID can be a real pain to get, according to some trying to get one

HUNTINGTON — Missy Sims left the West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office in Huntington on Thursday afternoon a little frustrated because she didn’t have all the documents necessary to get a Real ID.

“I saw reports that you have to have one by next year if you want to fly on an airplane, but I didn’t have all the documents I needed, so I will have to come back another day,” Sims said.

West Virginia residents will soon need a gold star on their driver’s license or state-issued identification cards if they want to board an airplane or access secure federal facilities, including military bases and some federal offices, according to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and it will be required starting Oct. 1, 2020.

“The gold star indicates that the driver’s license is Real ID-compliant. If you don’t have a driver’s license, you will need another form of approved identification to board the flight or enter a secure federal facility,” according to a news release from the TSA. “West Virginia’s Real ID-compliant driver’s licenses and identification cards have a small gold star in the upper right corner to indicate that it meets federal regulations that establish minimum security standards.”

However, to get the Real ID-compliant license, individuals will need to go to their local West Virginia DMV in person and bring certain documents to prove U.S. citizenship and West Virginia residency.

Required documents include one proof of identity, proof of Social Security number, proof of legal name change, two proofs of West Virginia residency and a current driver’s license if you are applying to exchange one issued by another U.S. state.

“I didn’t know I needed my marriage certificate or divorce papers,” Sims said.

Daniel Roseberry, of Dunlow in Wayne County, was also at the Huntington DMV on Thursday afternoon and was trying to get his driver’s license.

“I don’t really fly on airplanes and I don’t plan to either, but I still want to get one because I heard you need them to get into federal buildings,” he said. “I didn’t know I needed all these types of documents to do it.”

Lisa Farbstein, spokesperson in the Office of Public Affairs of the Transportation Security Administration, said after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the federal government passed a federal law, the Real ID Act of 2005, that mandates that a Real ID is needed for federal purposes.

“Real ID is a coordinated effort by the federal government to improve the reliability and accuracy of driver licenses and identification cards. The improvements are intended to inhibit terrorists’ ability to evade detection by using fraudulent identification,” she said. “States have had since 2005 to get this done.”

Farbstein said West Virginia residents have the option to upgrade to a Real ID-compliant license or stick with a standard driver’s license. There is a $10 Real ID surcharge in addition to standard fees to get the new license, she said.

“A standard credential without the gold star will not be valid to board a flight or to access secure federal facilities, including military bases and some federal offices,” Farbstein said.

Farbstein said TSA officers who staff the ticket document-checking station at airports will not allow travelers into the checkpoint without a Real ID-compliant license or another form of acceptable ID after the Oct. 1, 2020, deadline.

TSA has posted new signs at airports nationwide to remind people that Real ID-compliant licenses or other acceptable forms of ID, such as a valid passport, federal government PIV card or U.S. military ID, will be mandatory for air travel beginning Oct. 1, 2020.

“Critically important, on Oct. 1, 2020, individuals who are unable to verify their identity will not be permitted to enter the TSA checkpoint and will not be allowed to fly,” she said.

TSA officers will provide verbal advisements to passengers to remind them about Real ID, Farbstein added.

For more information and details about how to obtain a Real ID-compliant driver’s license or identification card in West Virginia, visit the West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles website at https://transportation.wv.gov/dmv/Pages/default.aspx.

A full list of documents needed in West Virginia to get a Real ID can be found online at https://transportation.wv.gov/DMV/DMVFormSearch/Drivers_Licenses_REAL_ID_cards_brochure.pdf.

Families visiting loved ones at VA Medical Center will soon have free place to stay

HUNTINGTON — Hershel “Woody” Williams said a lot has changed since he arrived to work at the Huntington VA Medical Center in 1946.

For starters, the medical center now bears his name.

It’s recognition for his service in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II, which earned him a Medal of Honor in 1945. There have also been drastic advancements in medicine and science.

“When I see what is happening here on these grounds and the care they are able to give, the services that are provided, it’s a different world,” Williams said. “It’s a different world in the science and medical world, too. As I thought about it this morning, I thought, ‘It’s like comparing a Model A Ford and a jet airplane.’”

Williams, 96, was at the Hershel “Woody” Williams VA Medical Center on Thursday to witness the groundbreaking ceremony for another big advancement there: the state’s first Fisher House.

A Fisher House provides families a place to stay, free of charge, while their loved ones are receiving treatment at a VA Medical Center or military base. The 16-suite, 13,270-square-foot Fisher House in Huntington will join 84 other Fisher Houses operating in the United States and Europe when it is completed next year.

Each bedroom suite will be equipped with a private and handicapped-accessible bathroom. Common areas will include a spacious kitchen, a large communal living area, dining and family rooms, a laundry room and a patio. It will provide more than 500 families a place to stay each year.

Currently, families visiting their loved ones have to stay at nearby hotels, the closest of which is about 15 minutes away.

“One person’s vision is resulting in a place over the years that will give comfort and give peace to many families during a very anxious time, not knowing if they are going to survive,” Williams said.

“Yet they will have a place close by that they can be near their loved ones. It will remove the anxiety of those awaiting news of improvements and the wellness of those receiving care in this medical center because it is near.”

Fisher Houses are spearheaded by the nonprofit organization, the Fisher House Foundation. Since opening the first Fisher Houses in 1991, the foundation has saved an estimated $451 million in out-of-pocket costs for lodging and transportation for military and veteran families.

Ken Fisher, chairman and CEO of the foundation, also attended Thursday’s ceremonial groundbreaking.

Fisher said the construction of these houses serves as a reminder to everyone about what’s at stake.

“It’s easy for us to forget that there are men and women still in harm’s way,” Fisher said. “It’s easy for us to forget their families, and it’s easy for us to forget the sacrifices that are being made on behalf of our freedom and our way of life.”

Fisher was joined by U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who he called a close friend. The pair worked together to secure the continuation of death benefits for families during the 2013 government shutdown, which threatened to halt all benefit payments.

Manchin said he just returned from spending time on the USS Abraham Lincoln on the Arabian Sea, visiting West Virginia troops assigned to conduct missions there.

He addressed military members and veterans in the audience, saying they are the reason America is considered a superpower on the global stage.

“It is the military — and you all know this — it’s the veterans that is the glue that holds this country together,” Manchin said. “As dysfunctional and toxic the political atmosphere is, this is the glue that holds us together.”

Also attending Thursday’s groundbreaking ceremony was West Virginia National Guard Maj. Gen. James A. Hoyer and VA Deputy Secretary James M. Byrne. Remarks were also shared from U.S. Reps. Alex Mooney and Carol Miller, both R-W.Va.; Bill Johnson, R-Ohio; and U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.

Huntington’s Fisher House is made possible from material donations from 84 Lumber and donations made to the Fisher House Foundation. Construction is being handled by Emerald Construction of Richmond, Virginia.

Before closing his remarks, Williams suggested naming the Huntington Fisher House after Huntington VA Medical Center Director Brian Nimmo.

Past month was hottest, driest September on record for much of WV

CHARLESTON — October’s arrival in West Virginia so far has felt more like the dog days of summer than the traditional time to search closets and dressers for long-sleeved shirts and sweaters.

After three West Virginia cities endured their hottest Septembers on record, record-high temperatures for both Oct. 1 and the entire month of October were set Tuesday in five of the six communities the National Weather Service’s Charleston Forecast Office monitors for official daily climate data.

Federal officials said Thursday drought conditions in West Virginia are worsening as unusually high heat has beat down on the region. Gov. Jim Justice declared a state of emergency for all 55 West Virginia counties due to the prolonged shortage of rainfall.

Statewide, over the past 90 days, West Virginia has received 2-5 inches less rainfall than normal, according to the governor’s office, with some pockets of 5- to 7-inch rainfall deficits across the southern half of the state.

The U.S. Drought Monitor map released Thursday shows large swaths of southern West Virginia in a severe drought, a designation that includes the likely loss of crops and water shortages.

The map also classifies the entire northern part of the state as abnormally dry.

In the weeks leading up to the drought declaration, Huntington, Beckley and Clarksburg all posted record-high mean temperatures for the month of September, while the month was the second-warmest on record in Elkins, third-hottest ever in Charleston and tied for the fourth-warmest in Parkersburg.

On Tuesday, record high temperatures for both Oct. 1 and the entire month of October were set in Huntington, Beckley, Clarksburg, Parkersburg and Elkins.

It reached 95 degrees in both Huntington and Clarksburg on Tuesday, breaking previous highs for Oct. 1 of 90 set in 1952 in the Cabell County city and 94 degrees set in 1953 in the Harrison County town.

Monday’s temperatures also broke previous high temp records for the month of October of 93 degrees set in 1952 for Huntington, and 94 degrees, set in 1927 in Clarksburg.

Last month was as dry as it was hot, with three of the six cities — Huntington, Beckley and Clarksburg — experiencing the least rainfall ever recorded for a September.

A scant .01 inch of rain fell on Huntington, while Beckley received 0.10 inches and Clarksburg recorded 0.56 inches.

For Elkins, last month was the second-driest September on record, with 0.48 inches of precipitation, while Parkersburg matched its third-driest September with 0.55 inches, and Charleston experienced its fourth-driest, with 0.54 inches of rain for the month.

But what a difference a year makes. Last September was the wettest on record for Charleston (11.62 inches), Huntington (10.41 inches) and Beckley (9.98 inches), second-wettest for Clarksburg (9.52 inches) and Elkins (8.16 inches) and third-wettest for Parkersburg (7.99 inches).

More October heat records were possible Thursday, before an anticipated cold front was set to arrive from the northwest Thursday night, bringing high temperatures in the region to the low 70s Friday.

Ryan Smith

Ohio plans study on genetic markers for opioid addiction

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio launched a $1.6 million study Thursday that aims to identify the genetic markers that separate people likely to develop opioid addiction from people somehow immune to the painkillers’ addictive properties.

Republican Attorney General Dave Yost, who oversees scientists at the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, is spearheading the effort, which is expected to take about 18 months.

It will include a study of patient swabs collected at emergency rooms at the University of Cincinnati and Ohio State University hospitals and related work by a panel of nine scientists.

At a Statehouse news conference announcing the effort, Yost said the Ohio study will build on scientific groundwork that already established a genetic basis for who gets addicted and who doesn’t.

“This is not a matter of how well you can handle things or how well-integrated your personality is — it’s a matter of chemistry,” he said.

He has tapped Dr. Jon Sprague, an eminent scholar at BCI, to lead that panel, dubbed the Scientific Committee on Opioid Prevention and Education, or SCOPE. Sprague is also director of the state’s Center for the Future of Forensic Science.

Sprague said no one yet knows which genes lead to addiction. The task force he is leading, which began meeting in June, is seeking to identify the circumstantial, environmental, social, behavioral and psychological factors that incline some people to substance use disorder.

He said all reactions to opioids, which can include prescription painkillers, heroin and illicit fentanyl, are important — even being unaffected by them.

“We want to know why it is that two people can take the same drug in the same dosage and only one becomes addicted,” he said. “We want to know how to blunt opioids’ harmful effects.”

Dr. Caroline Freiermuth, an associate professor of emergency medicine at the University of Cincinnati, said swabs will be collected from different groups: those never exposed to opioids, those previously exposed who never developed opioid use disorder, those currently exposed on a chronic basis who never developed the disorder, and those currently with the disorder. No personal identifying information will be revealed.

Ohio has been among the hardest hit in a national scourge, with a record 4,854 unintentional fatal overdoses in 2017, the most recent year for which statewide data is available.

National opioid litigation in which more than 2,000 cities, counties, tribal governments and unions are seeking to hold the pharmaceutical industry responsible for the epidemic is also focused in Ohio.

A judge in Cleveland is overseeing the massive case, which is set to begin Oct. 21 with a bellwether trial involving Cuyahoga and Summit counties.

Yost, who is separately pursuing a state lawsuit against the drug industry, said he hopes the scientific effort can help begin to reduce the number of people who become addicted each year.

“Once we do that, the unsung heroes on the front lines who are doing the treatment will actually be able to get their arms around this and to see progress, instead of drowning under the continuing flood,” he said.

Steven Marcalus, founder and CEO of TOPGx LLC, which specializes in gene science around drugs, a field called pharmacogenomics, said he hopes Ohio can marshal existing data and resources to come up with a genetic marker that a person could carry through life, like a risk for heart disease or diabetes, and provide to doctors and other medical professionals.

“We all are hoping the model will uncover information for us that says we can put a predictive model together, even for consumers, and say, ‘What is my risk of becoming an opioid addict?’” he said. “The eventual goal is that doctors could screen patients for this.”