FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Public Health and Community Organizations Join Forces to Combat Triple Threat of Substance Use, HIV, Hepatitis Outbreaks in West Virginia
New Coalition Will Take on Rising Infection Rates and Drug Overdose Deaths in the State
SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. SEPTEMBER 17, 2020 – The West Virginia Statewide Stakeholder Coalition (WVSSC) convened for the first time on September 1, 2020, to address West Virginia’s growing “syndemic” of HIV/Hepatitis C (HCV) outbreaks and drug overdose deaths. The group’s primary mission is to break down technical, regulatory, and administrative barriers that limit testing, treatment, and support across HIV, viral hepatitis, and substance use disorder [SUD] programs. Such barriers create “treatment silos” that fail to reflect the medical and social realities behind the interrelated health crises—and thereby impede effective intervention.
The meeting was convened by the health advocacy organization Shepherdstown-based Community Education Group (CEG). CEG formed the new statewide coalition aimed at stemming the rising tide of fatalities and HIV and viral hepatitis infections driven by West Virginia’s ongoing opioid crisis.
“We are facing an unprecedented Substance Use Disorder epidemic in West Virginia,” said A. Toni Young, Founder and Executive Director of CEG. “An epidemic that is directly linked to our state’s highest-in-the-nation rates of Viral Hepatitis, to three HIV outbreaks in the past four years, and to the highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the nation. It constitutes an immediate and ongoing threat to public health, requiring a proportional response. The West Virginia Statewide Stakeholder Coalition assembles the expertise and collaborative strategy to spearhead that response.”
The WVSSC will focus on expanding awareness, education, rapid testing for HIV and Viral Hepatitis, treatment for SUD, and linkage-to-care networks which refer those recently diagnosed with HIV or Viral Hepatitis to treatment resources.
The first WVSSC meeting brought together 65 individuals and organizations including state government and public health officials, healthcare providers, national organizations, school board officials, community-based organizations, and others from across West Virginia.
Representatives attendees for WVSSC include: West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources; the Bureau for Public Health; the Office of Epidemiology and Prevention Services; the Office of Laboratory Services; the Office of Drug Control Policy; the Doddridge, Marion, Marshall, Mid-Ohio Valley, and Monongalia County Health Departments; Berkeley County Schools; the Hancock County Commission; the Jefferson Berkeley Alliance on Substance Abuse Prevention; the United Ways of Central WV, Marion, and Taylor Counties; Community Connections; David Medical Center; the Eastern Panhandle Regional Planning and Development Council; Eastridge Health Systems; EnAct, Inc.; the Family Resource Networks in Fayette, Gilmer, and Jackson Counties; the Morgan County Homeless Coalition; the Regional Intergovernmental Council; the West Virginia Institute of Community and Rural Health; West Virginia University; and many other private and public community members from across the state.
WVSSC’s primary goals include:
1.) Working to deconstruct disease state silos between Substance Use Disorder, HIV, and Viral Hepatitis by increasing awareness, education, and building linkages to care and treatment networks;
2.) Working to expand HIV screening, rapid testing, surveillance, treatment, and linkage to care throughout West Virginia, reaching into hard-to-reach and hard-to-treat parts of the states;
3.) Helping to develop statewide elimination plans for HIV and Viral Hepatitis;
4.) Developing statewide working groups focused on SUD, HIV, and Viral Hepatitis;
5.) Offering educational opportunities to Providers, Organizations, and Consumers centered around HIV, Substance Use Disorders, and Viral Hepatitis
NEXT MEETING: The next open meeting of WVSSC will be held on October 13, 2020, at 2:00 PM ET. All are invited. Sign up by filling out the form at this address.