Washington (Gallant Gold Media Hill Report | Perspective | May 15, 2019)
by Noreen Wise
Huntington, West Virginia Mayor Steve Williams spoke with Axios Co-Founder Mike Allen this morning in a conversation with several other concerned leaders – Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA), and Dr. Vanila Singh Chief Medical Officer US Dept HHS – to discuss a pathway for overcoming the pain crisis in America. More than 50 million Americans are battling chronic daily pain.
Mayor Steve Williams is on the front line of the opioid crisis, speaking candidly about his growth in understanding about the size and scope of this devastating disease, stressing that it is indeed a disease rather than a crime. “We can’t arrest our way out of this.”
Williams walked the audience through his journey of understanding. Initially, his strategy had been to tackle the crisis through law enforcement, with a hard on crime approach. “River to jail.” Anyone crossing the Ohio River to sell drugs in Huntington, WV, was going straight to jail. But arresting 200 in 9 days, didn’t change the results. Drug sellers kept coming. Williams was forced to reassess the root cause of the opioid crisis. Addiction is a disease, he eventually determined. Williams explained that Americans have done a superior job at addressing cancer head on by establishing cancer institutes, and dementia by founding Alzheimer institutes, but there are no addiction institutes.
“The epidemic of addiction is the greatest existential threat facing our nation.” ~ Mayor Steve Williams, Huntington, WV
When asked about solutions for getting overdose survivors into treatment, Williams outlined Huntington’s Quick Response Team, a group of four wearing plain clothes, who immediately move into action within 24-72 hours, to help survivors following an overdose.
The Quick Response Team consists of:
- Law Enforcement Professional
- Recovery Coach
QRT’s mission is to:
- Better their community
- Instill hope for people struggling with substance abuse
- Offer Treatment
- Show vulnerable citizens that their city cares about them
Overdose deaths In Huntington, WV have dropped by 50% since the QRT program was established. Mayor Williams’ ability to define the problem, so that he can solve it, appears to be paying off. His central message at the start of this campaign was,”Everybody, EVERYBODY, had to take ownership.” Medical system. Churches. Schools. ETC.
“If you can name it, then you can own it.” ~Mayor Steve Williams, Huntington, WV
Getting the whole Huntington community to own the crisis resulted in a turning of the tides that changed the outcome, saved lives, and revitalized the community. Excellent small scale example that can be applied in every town and city in America.
Thank you, Mayor Williams!
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