Opioids: More resources needed in addiction battle

U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., was right to express his frustration about a federal campaign against abuse of opioids and other drugs.

“I don’t understand why more resources aren’t flowing to help out a rural state like West Virginia,” complained McKinley during a congressional hearing on the drug crisis.

One report on the hearing referred to the “extraordinary $1 billion” Congress approved last year to battle substance abuse. That only sounds like a lot of money. In the context of the problem, it is a pittance.

McKinley is painfully aware West Virginia has the highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the nation, by far. In 2015, the most recent year for which statistics are available, overdoses claim 41.5 lives per 100,000 people in our state.

Yet our share of that $1 billion was less than $5.9 million. That would fund one medium-sized addiction treatment clinic for less than a year.

It is true that some states with far lower overdose rates — as well as total numbers of deaths from the cause — receive disproportionate amounts of money from the $1 billion campaign. California, Texas, and New York are among those that appear to be getting more than their share, based on the grim fatality calculus.

But this is no time for partisan or geographic squabbles. The plain truth is that $1 billion is nowhere near what is needed to even hold the line, much less turn the tide, against drug abuse.

Last week, President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis is a national public health emergency.

Though such recognition is long overdue, it amounts only to words. We already know that won’t be enough to win the battle.