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Rockefeller Brings Experts to West Virginia to Help Curb Prescription Drug Abuse

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

Senator Jay Rockefeller today announced that a team of federal health care experts and West Virginia University faculty will provide an important course tomorrow in Morgantown on prescribing pain medications for doctors, dentists and nurses.

Rockefeller invited the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to come to the state as part of his larger effort to find ways to tackle the plague of prescription drug abuse in West Virginia. SAMSHA's continuing medical education course for prescribers, the second to be held in West Virginia at Rockefeller's request, aims to help prescribers, especially those in primary care settings, learn about what they can do to safely prescribe opioid painkillers and reduce the likelihood of abuse among patients. The Morgantown event has generated great interest from across the state, with around 200 confirmed registrants.

"I hear every day from concerned West Virginians -- parents, health professionals, law enforcement -- about how prescription drug abuse is hurting our communities," Rockefeller said. "One of the biggest identified issues is that we need to make sure those who prescribe drugs are getting the information they need to avoid over-prescribing and better identify patients at risk of abuse. That's why I asked SAMHSA to join West Virginia University faculty to provide this course and arm our health care providers with more information, best procedures, and practical steps to deal with this heart-breaking epidemic. This course is a step in the right direction and I want to thank West Virginia University and SAMHSA for their efforts."

For thousands of West Virginians, the proper prescription means the ability to continue active and productive lives. Unfortunately, there have also been dramatic increases in the number of prescription drug deaths and overdoses in the last decade -- with West Virginia having one of the highest rates of death from drug overdoses in the nation.

SAMHSA works to target effective substance abuse and mental health services to those in need, and aims to translate research in these areas more effectively and quickly into the health care system. SAMHSA's course, "Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain: Balancing Safety and Efficacy," will take place on Friday, March 22 from 8:30 a.m. -- 4:45 p.m. Registration, which has reached capacity and is now closed, was open to all prescribers.

"SAMHSA believes that, consistent with the ONDCP Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Strategy, prescriber education on appropriate prescribing practices is an essential element in reducing prescription drug abuse," said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde. "SAMHSA has invested considerable resources in developing the curriculum, and providing courses over the last several years, placing a priority on the states with the highest rates of abuse and overdose deaths."

"We have a never-ending stream of opioid dependent patients coming to our doors. But treating the addict is not the most glamorous part of medicine, so it's true that not enough physicians have been interested or capable of treating these patients. Or there are other doctors treating addicts just to make a buck. With education efforts such as this and the attention that someone like Senator Rockefeller brings to the issues, we can start to change that," said Carl "Rolly" Sullivan, M.D., director of addictions services for WVU Healthcare's Chestnut Ridge.

At Rockefeller's invitation, SAMHSA conducted a prescriber education course last September at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine, where 125 prescribers participated.

Rockefeller has requested and received comprehensive input from West Virginians on how to tackle the prescription drug abuse epidemic in West Virginia. His work on this issue, from prescriber education courses to legislation, reflects that feedback. Read more about Rockefeller's efforts to combat prescription drug abuse here.

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