Health & Science

Ohio Valley Lawmakers Helped Shape Bipartisan Bill On Opioid Crisis

Oct 31, 2018
Courtesy White House video

A year after President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency, he signed a bipartisan bill Wednesday to bolster law enforcement efforts and expand addiction treatment and resources.

Proponents hope the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act helps the Ohio Valley, which suffers some of the nation’s highest rates of addiction and overdose deaths.

And Ohio Valley lawmakers had a strong influence on the package.

On a 90-degree afternoon in July, under the shade of a tree in Philadelphia's McPherson Square Park, I watched a couple sit down, prepare syringes and inject drugs.

The man injected in his arm, the woman in her neck.

I observed them from about a hundred feet away, where I was getting ready to film an interview with someone else.

After they had finished, the woman rested against the man. She was splayed out on top of the man with her neck tilted back, her mouth open.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, amid a surge in cases of black lung disease, concerns are rising about the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, which provides federal benefits to some coal miners with the disease.

A tax that funds those benefits is scheduled to fall by over 50 percent at the end of the year unless Congress acts. Now, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says there’s a plan to keep the trust fund from sliding further into debt. The Ohio Valley ReSource's Sydney Boles has more.

Kyle Mandler

West Virginia's youth obesity rates have soared over the years, and a new report found that more than 35 percent of teens here are overweight or obese. A new statewide youth development organization is trying to address the problem, and teach resilience, by encouraging kids to enjoy their native hills -- on a mountain bike.

McConnell Hints At Action To Preserve Tax Supporting Black Lung Fund

Oct 24, 2018
An X-ray image of an Appalachian coal miner with black lung lesions.
Adelina Lancianese / NPR

Amid a surge in cases of black lung disease, concerns are rising about the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, which provides federal benefits to some coal miners with the disease. A tax that supports the fund would be cut by half at the end of the year unless Congress acts.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, more than 35 percent of children ages 10-17 in West Virginia are overweight or obese, according to an annual Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report released today. The report outlines policy ideas for how to blunt the upward trend of obesity -- one of them is helping kids to be more physically active. Kara Lofton reports on a new grassroots program that helps kids get more active through mountain biking.

On this West Virginia Morning, we hear another story from our ongoing project focused on confronting the addiction crisis in our region. Assistant News Director Glynis Board spoke with Bill Hogan who shares his recovery story.

The Doctor And The Epidemic: Three Years At Ground Zero Of The Opioid Crisis

Oct 15, 2018
Ashton Marra / WVPB

When Dr. Rahul Gupta started work as West Virginia’s chief health officer his state was already ground zero for the opioid epidemic, with some of the nation’s highest rates of addiction and overdose fatalities.

That was 2015, and 735 state residents died from overdoses that year. 

Preliminary data for 2017 show there were 1,011 overdose deaths last year, a record high for the state.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Monring, the nation’s opioid crisis hit first and hardest in the Ohio Valley. West Virginia, in particular, has suffered some of the highest rates of addiction and overdose deaths in the country. As the state’s public health commissioner, Dr. Rahul Gupta has been the point person in the state’s fight against the epidemic. After three years in that position, Gupta is leaving next month.  
The Ohio Valley ReSource's Aaron Payne spoke with Gupta about his time at the center of the opioid crisis.

Rebecca Kiger / Ohio Valley ReSource

After decades of addiction to heroin and prescription opioids, Wendy Crites finally made a clean break.

“For the first time in my life I just wanted to be off of it,” she said from her home in Ranson, West Virginia. “I hit rock bottom.”

Miners Urge Congressional Action On Pensions, Black Lung Fund

Sep 26, 2018
Office of Sen. Brown

Retired coal miners and coal community activists are on Capitol Hill this week urging action on two important issues for miners: pensions and black lung benefits. Advocates say funds supporting both pensions for retired miners and the federal benefits for those sickened by black lung disease are at risk if Congress does not act.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, the infectious liver disease hepatitis A has hit Appalachia hard during the past several months. Kara Lofton looks into what is causing the outbreak and how public officials are working to slow the spread.

Also on today's show, when it comes to making voting more secure, cybersecurity experts say the U.S. should move away from electronic voting machines and back towards paper ballots. West Virginia is heading the other direction.

Jesse Wright / WVPB

As President Trump attempts to revive the struggling coal industry, the administration’s top regulator for mine safety used a recent lecture at West Virginia University to lay out his priorities for the agency charged with keeping miners safe.

Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health David Zatezalo outlined the Trump administration's priorities for the Mine Safety and Health Administration, or MSHA.

Free Medical Clinic Planned for October in West Virginia

Sep 24, 2018
Adobe Stock

A free medical clinic for West Virginians in need is set for next month. The clinic will be held Oct. 20 and 21 at the Bible Center School in Charleston.

The Paloma Crisis Stabilization & Detox Center is located on Wilson Street in Martinsburg, W.Va. It's the first of its kind in Berkeley County since the 1990s.
Liz McCormick / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

It’s been more than 20 years since Martinsburg had an in-patient detox facility. That changed Friday.

The open house for the Paloma Crisis Stabilization & Detox Center attracted dozens from the community. The project took two years and was funded through a state grant of more than $1 million. The center will offer 16 beds to people with substance use disorders. It will be open 24/7.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, new data on drug use among teenagers show a rare bright spot amid the opioid crisis. Use of opioids appears to have dropped last year among high schoolers in the region. 
School officials in the Ohio Valley want to continue that trend with more school-based programs designed to help prevent substance use disorders. But as Aaron Payne reports, those programs use a new approach as officials learn from past mistakes.

Senate Opioids Bill Takes Aim At Fentanyl Imports

Sep 19, 2018
Mary Meehan / Ohio Valley ReSource

The U.S. Senate has approved a bipartisan package to address the nation’s opioid crisis with more resources for addiction treatment and recovery and an emphasis on stopping the flow of the the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl.

The New DARE: Schools Aim To Stop Next Generation Of Opioid Crisis

Sep 17, 2018
Aaron Payne / Ohio Valley ReSource

New data from the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health show a rare bright spot amid the opioid crisis. Fewer high schoolers in the region appear to be using opioids.

School officials in the Ohio Valley want to continue that trend with more school-based programs designed to help prevent substance use disorders. But these are not the same drug prevention programs many people remember from their school days.

Many healthy Americans take a baby aspirin every day to reduce their risk of having a heart attack, getting cancer and even possibly dementia. But is it really a good idea?

Results released Sunday from a major study of low-dose aspirin contain a disappointing answer for older, otherwise healthy people.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, we explore the black market -- not of opioids, but of medication to treat opioid addiction. We also bring you an update on Hurricane Florence’s potential impact here in the Mountain State, and we learn the latest on a CSX train derailment in Fayette County.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, WVU civil and environmental engineering professor Antar Jutla has been instrumental in developing a computer program that has helped predict and prevent the spread of cholera in war-torn Yemen. Kara Lofton spoke with Jutla about how super computers and data can impact the spread of waterborne diseases after both natural and manmade disasters.

Liz McCormick / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Both the Northern and Eastern Panhandles are experiencing flooding this week as rain continues to fall on the two regions. Preparations are also being made across the state to respond to possible heavy rainfall from Hurricane Florence at the end of the week.

Reining In Abuse: Lax Laws On Animal Welfare Affect Pets And People

Sep 5, 2018
Nicole Erwin / Ohio Valley ReSource

Suzanna Johnson is an education officer with the Heart of Phoenix Equine Rescue in Camner, Kentucky. Johnson is looking after a pregnant horse she rescued recently.

“Be good,” she instructs the mare, named CC, and pats her belly. 

Wednesday is looking like yet another pivotal day in the life-or-death saga that has marked the history of the Affordable Care Act.

Family members of victims of Sunday's mass shooting speak at a press conference Monday, Aug. 27, 2018, in Jacksonville, Fla.
John Raoux / AP Photo

A California man who played video games to earn money for college and a West Virginian whose e-sports winnings helped support his young family were slain at a Florida tournament where a gunman specifically targeted fellow gamers, authorities said Monday.

Black lung is a deadly disease caused by exposure to dust underground.
Department of Labor

A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators have introduced a provision that aims to boost participation in black lung detection programs.

Virginia Democrat Sen. Mark Warner introduced the amendment Wednesday into the defense, labor, health and education spending package that is being debated on the Senate floor.

If passed, the provision would require the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health or NIOSH to create a report for Congress within 180 days detailing how to increase participation in black lung screening programs.

Rural Risk: Mobile Clinics Help Tackle Multifaceted Opioid Crisis

Aug 20, 2018
Anthony Scott Lockard / KY River Dist. Health

In a room at the Letcher County Health Department in Whitesburg, Kentucky, about 20 people are learning how to use naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal medication.

Among them is 18-year-old Morgan Hopkins. An aspiring therapist, Hopkins said she wants to be ready with naloxone if someone overdoses around her.

“You never know what you’re going to see,” she said. “If anything goes wrong, you have it, rather than you don’t have it.”

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, owning a dog is said to help improve self-esteem. Man's best friend can improve social lives, makes us less lonely, and even help keep us active.  In our next installment of our summer series Outside in Appalachia, health reporter and dog-lover Kara Lofton explores how to safely enjoy outdoor recreation to maximize the physical and mental benefits of pet ownership as well as explore local natural resources.

Molly Born / WVPB

Wharncliffe is a tiny community deep in the hills of Mingo County, in a rural corner of southern West Virginia. The road there is narrow with the signature hairpin curves of this region.

A Jeep SUV stocked with enough food to feed 50 kids makes the hour-long round trip five days a week from the nearby community center, over the mountain, to the local fire hall here.

Veterans and Warriors to Agriculture Facebook

West Virginia has been awarded a $400,000 federal grant to provide agriculture training for military veterans.

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