FULL EPISODE: 7/4/21 Sen. Shelley Moore Capito on the opioid epidemic’s devastating impact in West Virginia

FULL EPISODE: 7/4/21 Sen. Shelley Moore Capito on the opioid epidemic’s devastating impact in WV
FULL EPISODE: 7/4/21 Sen. Shelley Moore Capito on the opioid epidemic’s devastating impact in WV
Published: Jul. 3, 2021 at 10:23 PM EDT
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Washington, D.C. – Greta Van Susteren traveled to Morgantown, West Virginia to interview Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) about the opioid epidemic for Gray Television’s “Full Court Press with Greta Van Susteren” airing Sunday, July 4, 2021. The special episode is part of Gray TV’s Bridging the Great Health Divide Initiative. Van Susteren also visited WVU Medicine Center for Hope and Healing in Morgantown, where she interviewed founder of Ascension RS and former addict Doug Leech, and Hazel House of Hope, a new sobriety center, where she spoke to Michael Cole, who lost his daughter Lauren Cole to an opioid overdose in 2020.

West Virginia’s opioid-related deaths per capita, which were already the highest in the nation, increased in 2020. Sen. Capito suggested the lack of in-person treatment for addicts during the COVID pandemic was partly to blame. “Losing that face-to-face interpersonal treatment model and recovery model really caused people to relapse back into despair, back into more addiction,” said Capito. “I think also the loss of jobs … then not an ability to move into a job after you’ve completed your recovery. So all these things started working against, I think, a lot of folks who were in fragile states anyway.”

Sen. Capito interview excerpts are below.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.)

Sadly, we have been the epicenter of the opioid crisis. Our statistics, our deaths by overdoses per capita are the highest in the nation. And it is centered in Appalachia at some points, but it also then has, like some of my friends from New Hampshire, they have very high statistics too. So let’s look at why we think this problem has developed in West Virginia.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.)

Some of it, I think, has developed because of the downturn in certain industries. People become jobless, depression, hopelessness. Or you might have workplace injuries and you’re prescribed painkillers, and then an addiction grows from that. I think it’s a whole variety of reasons. And we’ve found, I think, here in West Virginia, that the best solutions are community solutions that are from the ground up where the community like the Morgantown community has, is sort of, tries to figure out how do we crack this problem from all different ways to try to stop those statistics. They went down during the pandemic, then they went right back up and even higher.

Greta Van Susteren

And why do you think that is? Because people were home and there’s despair not knowing what was going to happen with jobs because of the pandemic?

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.)

Well, that was a nationwide phenomenon. I think what happened initially, people who were in treatment were only getting access to telehealth. And it looked like, well, this is going to be, we’re going to be able to sustain this treatment model. But I think, just anecdotally, I don’t have the statistics to back this up, but I think what happened was losing that face-to-face interpersonal treatment model and recovery model really caused people to relapse back into despair, back into more addiction. I think also the loss of jobs, definitely. And then not an ability to move into a job after you’ve completed your recovery. So all these things started working against, I think, a lot of folks who were in fragile states anyway. And I think people relapsed into addiction, unfortunately.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.)

I think that if you talk to, and I think you’re going to talk to parents, who’ve lived this life it’s like every night you put your head on the pillow, you just don’t know what you’re, if the phone rings or if something happens in the middle of night. You just know that call is going to come at some point and fear it. And I’ve even heard, anecdotally, folks who say, “I was so glad my daughter was in jail because she couldn’t get it there.” I mean, who would ever wish their own child to be incarcerated. But that was a bit of a safety for that parent to be able to sleep better that night ...

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.)

Not only do you have the health consequences, you have the legal consequences. And this is what happens when you’re trying to transition people out of treatment. They have a felony or they have some kind of a long list of misdemeanors and a bunch of mistrust from family members and everything, for them to transition into a job, to be able to stand themselves back up is really difficult.

Greta Van Susteren

I read an incredible statistic where something like three drug stores or pharmacies in the state in a small town of about 3,200 to 3,400 had something like 13 million pills, opioid pills land in the pharmacies, which is grossly out of sync with what you would expect a small town to get. How does that happen?

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.)

Well, that’s the town of Kermit in southern West Virginia, Williamson, several, more than a few, pharmacies, physicians, and others sort of colluded to really ramp up the prescription numbers. And there’s a big court case going on right now in Charleston, West Virginia for the distributors to see why were the safety protocols of the distributors not in place to see the enormous, I mean, millions of pills going into these areas. And so those areas then became sort of drive-by drug outlets. And it was known in the region that that’s where you could go.

Greta Van Susteren

Purdue Pharma for the last 15 years has been pouring money into Washington. A lot of senators on both sides of the aisle, Republican, Democrat were getting money. Meanwhile, many parts of the country were getting poisoned by this. Not the ones who had legitimate injuries and needed pain handling, but the other ones.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.)

Right. Well, if you read the stories of the origins, and there’s lots of really good books out there that talk about how this progressed, particularly Oxycontin, progressed as a drug to treat pain and what the marketing protocols [were]. There’s a big case in Cleveland that has been addressing this on a more national basis. And again, I think it’s a civil case, but it’s still, it’s massive. Some of them have already settled. Some of the pharmacy companies have already settled.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.)

And I think that we didn’t recognize it until it became ... I mean, I can tell you here in West Virginia, when I first became aware of the amount of drugs that were being sold, it was more as a reflection of the amount of overdoses when you’re talking to your first responders, how many responses they’re making in a day where they’re going to the same house three and four times a day. One of the big things was in Huntington, West Virginia where 26 people overdosed on the same exact day. Now that was a fentanyl overdose. So what happened is once we tightened down through the state and the feds on the distribution of pain pills, then those addicted go to heroin. They go to methamphetamine. And then this whole phenomenon of fentanyl comes up, which is extremely toxic and dangerous and has ended the life of too many West Virginians.

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About Greta Van Susteren:

Greta Van Susteren is the Chief Political Analyst for Gray Media and host of Full Court Press. Ms. Van Susteren is a veteran of Fox News Channel, MSNBC, and CNN. Her prime-time Fox News Channel Show, “On the Record,” was number 1 in its time slot for 14 1⁄2 years. Before joining Fox News, she hosted CNN’s prime-time news and analysis program, “The Point with Greta Van Susteren,” and co-hosted the network’s daily legal analysis show, “Burden of Proof.” Her legal analysis for CNN’s coverage of Election 2000 earned her the American Bar Association’s Presidential Award for Excellence in Journalism. She continues to host the weekly 30-minute program “Plugged In with Greta Van Susteren” on Voice of America, which broadcasts exclusively outside of the United States.

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