Pill mills are largely a thing of the past. Meth labs in mobile homes on back roads, operated by drug dealers relying on large quantities of over-the-counter allergy medications, have been replaced by international cartels. And recovery houses to help people overcome their addiction(s) are springing up faster than laws can regulate them.
It’s not easy for the 134 members of the West Virginia Legislature to step out of their individual areas of expertise to address these matters, but they are moving forward as the 60-day session reaches its halfway point.
A few bills discussed in committees this week demonstrate that.
Senate Bill 242, sponsored by Sen. Mike Azinger, R-Wood, would create a licensure procedure and program requirements for residential substance use disorder programs.
It sets an administrative due process procedure, establishes reporting requirements and establishes civil penalties and injunctive relief for those who are not in compliance.
Azinger introduced the bill following discussions and complaints from Wood County officials who wanted their residents to have a say in allowing treatment programs to open in their communities. It’s a similar situation in Cabell County, where residential programs have opened inside and outside Huntington city limits. People want to make sure programs in their neighborhoods are legitimate treatment centers and not fly-by-night operations that bring in people with substance abuse problems and kick them out into their community when the money is gone.
House Bill 2498, introduced by Delegate Laura Kimble, R-Harrison, would require medically assisted treatment programs to give public notice of their intent to locate in communities, among other things.
Taking another approach, HB 2916, introduced by Delegate Bill Ridenour, R-Jefferson, adds fentanyl to the list of materials defined as weapons of mass destruction in state law. That provision is part of a wide range of actions designed to deal with domestic terrorism.
The fact these bills were introduced by legislators from different parts of the state shows that these concerns are not limited to the Huntington area. Statewide problems are more likely to get the Legislature’s attention than local ones are.
These bills are all in committee. Their fates are undetermined. In the end, they may need more work, or they could be rejected because of a fatal flaw that’s not obvious at this moment.
It’s not an easy process. The bad guys in the illegal drug business can move faster than the good guys in legislative bodies. It’s the way the system is built to work.
Local communities need tools only the Legislature can provide. Legislators are working on providing those tools, and that does give hope that certain problems can be addressed soon.
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