MORGANTOWN — West Virginia University President Gordon Gee and former Ohio Gov. John Kasich partnered to form the Citizens for Effective Opioid Treatment with the purpose of pushing for opioid settlements to go toward hospitals instead of local or state governments.
Gee, who is also the chair of the West Virginia University Health System Board of Directors, said hospitals and health systems nationwide are suffering.
"Hospitals and health systems across the country are in the trenches trying to manage this crisis as best they can but are struggling given the complexity of the cases, the sheer number of patients involved, and the often meager reimbursement for providing the care," Gee said. "We must ensure people across the country hear the voices of these frontline caregivers loudly and clearly and help them understand how this ongoing crisis is endangering the viability of America’s hospitals."
Kasich said after spending time in the West Virginia hospital system, he learned much about what happened in hospitals.
Both Kasich and Gee met with many West Virginia healthcare providers — including nurses, doctors, addiction treatment experts, social workers and hospital administrators—to see how providers have been impacted during the opioid crisis.
"We wanted to make sure that when these settlements happen, that the money will go to treat the problem," Kasich said during a media teleconference.
Kasich pointed to tobacco settlements.
"We found out that a lot of that money never went to tobacco cessation," Kasich said. "I think that the notion that these dollars ought to go to the frontline is really a great idea."
Kasich pointed out that the National Cancer Institute described the tobacco settlements as "an opportunity lost to curb cigarette use," citing research that concluded not enough of the settlement dollars were being spent on anti-smoking measures.
"We should ensure that any settlement with the opioid manufacturers and their distributors is used to develop medical programs and treatment protocols to combat the crisis while working to help stabilize the hospitals most impacted by it," Kasich said. "We have to put opioid settlement dollars to work and put them in the hands of our caregivers."
Kasich said this is a tough fight.
"We've got to make sure the care and treatment is there," Kasich said.
Gee said they are fortunate so many great minds and passionate people are focused on the opioid crisis, the epicenter of which is in West Virginia, Ohio and all of Appalachia.
"Hospitals across this country are taking a direct hit as they care for thousands of patients addicted to prescription opioids—yet they often receive little to no reimbursement," Gee said. "That’s unsustainable and a prescription for disaster given how expensive caring for these patients can be."
The 501(c)(4) organization's mission is to advance evidence-based solutions for the opioid crisis nationwide and to educate policymakers and the public about the negative impact the crisis is having on the nation’s health care infrastructure.