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Tackling the U.S. Opioid Crisis

In 2017, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared a nationwide public health emergency regarding the opioid crisis.1



Each day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is estimated that more than 140 Americans die from drug overdoses, 91 specifically due to opioids.2

West Virginia is one of the states hardest hit by the opioid epidemic. According to the CDC, West Virginia has the highest overdose death rate in the United States,3 with opioids responsible for most overdose deaths in the state.4 The state also ranks first nationally for rates of hepatitis B and second for rates of hepatitis C.5 Research shows that the national increase in hepatitis C is related to the growing opioid epidemic and may lead to a rise in the number of people contracting HIV as well.6

Our response to the opioid epidemic in West Virginia

To help address the opioid crisis in West Virginia, our company’s Foundation is supporting an initiative with Marshall Health through a $2 million grant over four years (2018–2021) to establish the Great Rivers Regional System for Addiction Care (the System).

This comprehensive, integrated program is responding to the opioid crisis in the Great Rivers Region of West Virginia by providing individuals who have substance use disorders with the care they need to help increase retention in treatment and ultimately reduce opioid overdoses. It also is helping develop a model to tackle the challenges of the opioid epidemic and the spread of infectious diseases associated with the epidemic.

The Great Rivers Regional System for Addiction Care

The System is serving as a hub that coordinates the efforts of all program partners to help reduce opioid addiction and overdose deaths, improve access to substance abuse prevention and treatment services, and help lower the rising rates of HIV and hepatitis C infections.

The System includes comprehensive public health harm-reduction programs; quick response teams (which include a medical provider, a law enforcement officer and a treatment-and-recovery provider) that visit individuals following an overdose incident; care centers that connect individuals with addiction to recovery resources and treatment services; and community engagement and substance abuse prevention education.

Program goals

Given the substantial need to combat the opioid epidemic in West Virginia, the Great Rivers Regional System for Addiction Care has four overarching goals:

  • Reduce opioid overdoses and overdose deaths
  • Increase access to and retention in substance abuse treatment
  • Enhance access to care for viral hepatitis and HIV and prevent new infections
  • Improve public health education to increase awareness and prevention of substance abuse and addiction

Over the next four years, an independent evaluator will assess the impact of the System and help Marshall Health and its program partners identify the most effective community-based programs to curb the opioid epidemic. The evaluation results will aid in creating a potential model that can be adapted by local health care and public health systems in other states or regions to improve their own responses to this public health crisis.

1 Department of Health and Human Services. “Determination That a Public Health Emergency Exists.” Accessed July 2018.
2 Department of Health and Human Services. "HHS Acting Secretary Declares Public Health Emergency to Address National Opioid Crisis.” Accessed July 2018.
3 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Drug Overdose Data.” Accessed July 2018.
4 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Increases in Drug and Opioid Overdose Deaths—United States, 2000–2014.” Accessed July 2018.
5 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Surveillance for Viral Hepatitis—United States, 2016.” Accessed July 2018.
6 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Increases in Acute Hepatitis C Virus Infection Related to a Growing Opioid Epidemic and Associated Injection Drug Use, United States, 2004 to 2014.”