Better drug policy an urgent need

Jim Johnson needs to hit the ground running in his new job. Lives depend upon it.

Johnson has been named director of West Virginia’s new Office of Drug Control Policy, it was announced last week. Under supervision of the state Bureau for Public Health, the office’s role will be to battle substance abuse.

Naming Johnson to head the agency was a good decision. He had served as an officer, then as chief in the Huntington Police Department. Then, he moved on to direct the city’s Office of Drug Control Policy.

State officials seem headed in the right direction in dealing with the substance abuse crisis. They know a mix of law enforcement, treatment of addicts and control of the supply of legal opioid drugs are all critical facets of getting the problem under control.

It is disturbingly clear that if there is a winning formula against drug abuse, it has not found it, however.

West Virginia’s substance abuse crisis is the very worst in the nation, in many ways. The rate of overdose deaths is far above other states.

Which returns us back to timing. In the Mountain State, 41.5 of every 100,000 of its residents die annually from overdoses. So Johnson needs to receive the resources and cooperation he needs to help craft a better strategy against substance abuse. Every day that is lacking, the crisis claims two more West Virginians.