SUBSTANCE abuse is a terrible plague on our state and a growing problem nationally.
West Virginia has one of the highest prescription drug overdose rates in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Thousands of babies in our state are born with neonatal abstinence syndrome because their mothers used drugs or alcohol during pregnancy.
Methamphetamine labs are on the rise and stretch law enforcement resources to the bone.
Substance abuse may be one of the most devastating challenges West Virginia has ever faced.
The state's battle with drug abuse is one of the attorney general office's most important consumer protection initiatives, and it is a top personal priority of mine as well. Generations of West Virginians are at risk if we do not act soon.
That is why, for the first time ever, our office has created an internal task force to address this critical issue.
Since January, we have worked diligently to beef up our expertise and capabilities.
We hired top-notch prosecutors with experience handling substance abuse cases and employed accomplished investigators to pursue violations of the law whenever they occur.
Soon, our consumer outreach specialists will begin educational efforts focusing on this awful problem with citizens throughout our state.
One of my goals is to ensure federal, state, county and private-sector resources are effectively coordinated to attack this epidemic.
This is difficult given the complexity of this issue, but it is essential to our success.
Over the past few months, we have met with and spoken to many individuals and groups to learn as much as possible about efforts already underway to fight this affliction.
We have worked to identify areas where our Office can take steps to educate citizens, assist law enforcement and create new initiatives to fight this serious battle.
On the law enforcement side, I have personally discussed this issue or participated in meetings with federal prosecutors, county officials and sheriffs, the State Police, local police, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the National Guard, and other state attorneys general.
I also have personally discussed or had meetings on prescription drug abuse strategies with community leaders, employers, physicians, an anti-counterfeiting company, Wal-Mart and other pharmacies, including Fruth Pharmacy - which is testing a new approach to address the meth problem - as well as with representatives of both Cardinal Health and McKesson, two of the largest drug wholesalers operating in our state.
We are seeking input from and will meet with any individual or organization that can help West Virginia overcome this challenge.