West Virginia Executive Winter 2022 February 2022 | Page 102

False Claims Act and Rehab Accreditation
Eliminating Kickbacks in Recovery By Brock Malcolm
While many West Virginians have encountered unique struggles during the COVID-19 pandemic , those suffering from addiction appear to have been hit particularly hard . According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , 13 % of Americans reported starting or increasing substance use as a way of dealing with the stressors of the pandemic . Similarly , the American Medical Association has reported higher rates in overdoses and opioid-related fatalities since the onset of the pandemic . Given that West Virginia has historically shown higher rates of substance use and overdose than national averages , it is likely that the percentages are even higher here in the Mountain State .
Alongside these sharp increases in the number of substance users , West Virginia continues to see increases in its numbers of drug and alcohol treatment facilities and inpatient beds . While the increase in treatment options may seem like a good thing on the surface , this flood of new facilities has many concerned . In fact , in February 2020 , Delegate John Kelly announced his intention to introduce legislation to require such facilities to obtain the approval of the West Virginia Health Care Authority before opening or expanding .
Currently , treatment facilities must be licensed by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources , but they are considered exempt from review under the state ’ s Certificate of Need ( CON ) program , which seeks to ensure there is an existing need for health care services within a targeted population to avoid the unnecessary duplication of limited resources . To be eligible for the CON exemption , the facility must establish that its program utilizes an opioid agonist other than methadone . Methadone
Fire Chief Jan Rader . Photo by Rebecca Kiger / Netflix .
Maintaining Momentum
In 2017 , Cabell County was known as the epicenter of the national drug epidemic . That year , 1,831 people overdosed , resulting in 132 deaths in a county of only 96,000 people .
According to Huntington Fire Chief Jan Rader , overdose death numbers are going up everywhere , but in Cabell County , they have not come close to the 2017 peak . Rader has been working to help change the tide in her community for several years as a member of the Mayor ’ s Office of Drug Control Policy .
“ We are probably faring better than most counties in the state — our partnerships and collaborations have helped us ,” she says . “ We ’ ve lost ground , but we haven ’ t lost everything . COVID-19 isn ’ t the first bump in the road for those suffering from substance use disorder , but it does show you that collaboration and having programs in place helps tremendously . We just have to keep our foot on the gas .”
Huntington ’ s QRT and harm reduction program are wellknown and have been used as models on a national level .
“ All of our programs are working together , and I think it says a lot about what we ’ ve been able to achieve . Hopefully we will continue to move forward ,” says Rader . “ Our job is to work together to save lives and do what is best for our community . That is what we do in Cabell County .”