House Judiciary Advances Drug Treatment Plan

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The House Judiciary Committee examined Senate Bill 838, which creates a treatment program for those struggling with drug addiction and added a few amendments in committee.

Senate bill 838 creates a referral program, directed by the State Police, for substance abuse treatment. This bill exempts people voluntarily seeking treatment from arrest and prosecution, with a few exceptions.

This bill is modeled directly after successful legislation in Kentucky, which created a drug treatment program called the Angel Initiative in March 2019. The Angel Initiative has been able to help around 200 people since its creation.

People who wish to seek treatment for substance abuse can turn in their drugs and drug paraphernalia to law enforcement and will be referred to the treatment program instead of being arrested for possession. People that wish to participate in this program are advised to call their police department ahead of time with their name and information in the case where they might be pulled over on the way to the police station.

This bill does not protect those who have already been charged with drug use or possession and are awaiting trial. Entrance into the treatment program must be voluntary. Those with an outstanding arrest warrant, those who purposely injure law enforcement officers in the process, and those under the age of 18 are also ineligible for the protections set forth in this program.

This bill has been made in attempt to battle the ongoing opioid crisis in West Virginia. West Virginia has the highest rates of death due to drug overdose in the country. It’s estimated that 42,000 people in West Virginia have sought treatment for illegal drug use but failed to receive it. This program hopes to bring these numbers down and ensure that citizens are getting the proper treatment needed to become sober.

Captain Shallon Oglesby, West Virginia State Trooper, gave testimony in committee about this bill.

“This program is necessary and beneficial for our out of control opioid problem,” she said. “State Troopers would be happy to take on this responsibility.”

Senate Bill 851 is a companion bill to Senate Bill 838. Senate Bill 851 sets forth the procedures and policies that will be implemented as a part of the drug treatment program that is created in Senate Bill 838.

Senate Bill 838 and 851 will be reported to the full House with the recommendation of passage.