By Sen. Bill Cole - Contributing Columnist

On Aug. 15, there were 28 overdoses with one death in Cabell County. The drug crisis is literally destroying our cherished way of life.

West Virginia needs a leader who will tackle our state’s drug epidemic head on. The proliferation of heroin and other opiates, as well as the misuse of prescription painkillers and other medications, is wrecking families and robbing our young people of the opportunity to learn, to work and to prosper. This is placing an entire generation at risk.

We have a crisis in West Virginia like no other that I can recall in my lifetime. The time has come not just to act, but to act boldly, decisively and with great conviction. My seven-point action plan calls for stiffer penalties for drug kingpins because anyone caught bringing their poison into our state should pay a huge price.

Under my administration, anyone who calls a hotline for help will have access to a treatment program in their area. We are going to retrain our unemployed workers and put them to work as drug counselors. We are going to retool existing buildings and convert them into treatment facilities. And, we are going to use existing as well as untapped federal resources to help pay for it.

The following is my plan:

  1. My first act as Governor will be to call the Legislature into a special session to deal with the drug epidemic.
  2. I will work with the Legislature to pass harsher penalties, including mandatory sentencing for drug kingpins who are peddling meth and heroin to our children. In addition, the legislature is already working on a bill to make it clear that any death resulting in the sale of drugs would carry a murder charge.
  3. In addressing our laws as they relate to non-violent drug offenses, we must continue to support and expand our state’s juvenile and adult drug courts. I will seek to ensure judges maintain the flexibility and discretion to provide appropriate direction to those who have fallen victim to the perils of drug addiction and substance abuse, and who demonstrate the potential to get clean, get a job, and return as a productive member of society.
  4. I will use existing positions within the Governor’s office to create the Office of Drug Action to coordinate an intra-agency task force made up of the Secretaries of the Departments of Commerce, Education and the Arts, Health and Human Resources and Military Affairs and Public Safety as well as other appropriate state agencies.
  5. I will immediately begin to identify, inventory and evaluate all of the education, treatment, recovery and job placement programs that are currently utilized by state and local government as well as those offered by nonprofit and private organizations. I will prioritize these initiatives and redirect public funding and private funding to those enterprises with a proven record of success.
  6. I will leverage federal dollars for job training funding to train laid off workers for rehabilitation jobs and repurpose existing buildings using existing federal dollars to create and expand the availability of treatment centers for anyone who wants help. The state will aggressively pursue federal drug grants that we are currently missing to ensure that when someone calls a hotline for help, there will be a treatment program available for them in their area.
  7. I will launch an unprecedented program of awareness and education targeted at supporting and expanding our current drug prevention and resistance programs, and provide additional substantive information on the destructive nature of the problem through a broader range of delivery systems, including social media.

West Virginia needs a leader who will tackle our state’s drug epidemic head on. Addressing our state’s serious substance abuse issues will take the hard work and dedication of all of us. I ask that you join me in praying for the future of our state and for those who have been affected by this terrible crisis.

We will band together to make West Virginia proud and West Virginia strong.

By Sen. Bill Cole

Contributing Columnist

Bill Cole is the president of the West Virginia Senate and the Republican candidate for governor.

Bill Cole is the president of the West Virginia Senate and the Republican candidate for governor.