CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey's office recently named Rosemont Elementary School student Jacey Rose Chalmers from Martinsburg as the winner of the statewide Kids Kick Opioids contest, a competition designed to spur creativity and raise awareness of prescription painkiller abuse.
Chalmers’ entry was one of more than 2,000 submitted by students across West Virginia. The winning entry included a picture of Chalmers and her father taken one week before he died from a drug overdose.
The 3rd grader’s poignant handwritten account states, “I miss my daddy. I want to hug and kiss him every day. It is very sad when kids don’t have their daddy to play with now. I still cry when I think about my daddy. xo”
Morrisey said it was difficult to know what sort of submissions the attorney general’s office would receive, given the extremely sensitive nature of the topic.
“We are extremely pleased with the amount of people that participated and their willingness to let not only us, but everyone, know their experiences,” Morrisey told The West Virginia Record.
Morrisey said he hopes Chalmers’ message will have a major impact on the battle against opioid abuse in the state.
“Hearing someone’s genuine story, as opposed to merely having facts and figures, really does make a difference,” Morrisey said. “Hopefully, Jacey’s openness to share will help other children not live through the same tragedy.”
In addition to Chalmers, the contest’s judges recognized brothers David Urso and Gabe Urso, 5th-grade students at St. Mary’s Grade School in Clarksburg, as well as Gianna Muto, a 7th-grade student at Hurricane Middle School, as statewide runners-up. Their designs will appear with Chalmers’ on the attorney general’s website.
Morrisey said Chalmers’ story soon will appear in newspapers across the state.
Statewide runners-up David Urso, Gabe Urso and Muto were among 36 students recognized as regional winners. Each of the regional winners’ designs will be displayed at the West Virginia State Capitol.
In all, the office received 1,921 entries from 2,212 students at 71 middle and elementary schools. The submissions included a mix of drawings, poems and other designs aimed at promoting awareness.
Morrisey said Kids Kick Opioids represents only one initiative through which the attorney general’s office has sought to combat West Virginia’s drug overdose death rate.
Others measures include criminal prosecutions, increased funding, education, civil litigation, multistate initiatives, new technology, engagement with the faith-based community and a best-practices tool kit endorsed by more than 25 national and state stakeholders.
“West Virginia has the highest drug overdose rate in the United States, the top four counties in prescription drug overdose deaths and the third highest opioid prescribing rate in the country,” Morrisey said. “It’s so important for us to come together collectively with all entities to help release the grip this epidemic has on our fellow West Virginians.”
The West Virginia State Medical Association, West Virginia Association of School Nurses and the Capitol Police assisted the attorney general in judging the public service contest.