BRIDGEPORT – When my three boys were growing up, I’d tell them they needed three things to be successful: hard work, good moral character and good health.
When I look at West Virginia and our debilitating drug epidemic, it shakes me to my core. I cannot understand why our current governor’s plan to address this challenge remains in draft form after being office for over 1,000 days. I know just about every nook and cranny of our state, and this crisis touches all of us. It’s why I recently announced a lengthy and detailed action plan to address this crisis.
A lot of people and organizations are doing good work, but answering the drug epidemic requires a leader who will lay out a plan and coordinate actions effectively and efficiently.
The widespread addiction we see is a disease, and it must be treated with the same compassion we treat other diseases. This is not just an issue of the body. It also involves the heart and soul.
Those impacted by substance use disorder must have access to a variety of treatments, and long-term treatment must be an option. I recently visited Mountaineer Recovery Center in the Eastern Panhandle. It’s a great example for us to follow. While it provides housing and long-term care, the center and its compassionate staff are warm and welcoming.
Strong families are one of the best possible foundations both for prevention and treatment. I don’t have all the answers for how to strengthen family units, but I know it’s important to keep children with their families.
Children of addicts are the least-talked-about victims in this crisis. The number of children in foster care has gone up 11 percent in the past six years nationwide, but that number has exploded in West Virginia to 67 percent. West Virginia needs more case workers, and we need to make it easier to be a foster family. We have a chance to make a significant impact on these children during their most formative years.
As a businessperson, I see the incredibly high cost of this crisis for our state — not just now, but also in the long term. While we understand the financial costs, we also must recognize the humanitarian plight we face. We must find a way to support these children. It’s the right thing to do. These children are the most vulnerable victims, and they need our help. We have to open our hearts to the people who are suffering, both directly and indirectly. They need an outpouring of support and empathy.
On the other side of this tragic crisis, we must come down hard on criminals who sell addictive drugs. They deserve the heaviest possible penalties. Those fighting the drug epidemic on the front lines need more support. We must equip our police, sheriffs and Troopers better. Our county prosecutors must get the support they need to convict drug dealers and gang leaders who threaten our state. West Virginia must develop a reputation as a place where drugs aren’t welcome. We must come down hard on those who damage our society.
I’ve talked with people in recovery who are working through addiction and now serve as counselors. I’ve visited treatment centers and met with social workers. Like everyone, I have had friends and family members affected by this crisis.
We must have hope, but we also must have a tangible plan and act. Solving this problem requires the focus and involvement of a full-time governor, and I’m ready to get to work.
Thrasher is a Clarksburg native and Republican running for governor. He started The Thrasher Group in 1983 and created the White Oaks Development in Harrison County in 2008.