January 31, 2016

Manchin Discusses Addiction Problems, Federal Concerns During Recent Visit | Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — Sen. Joe Manchin visited the Marion County Day Report Center on Friday to talk about drug abuse in West Virginia. Manchin spoke with the director of the Day Report Center Ted Offutt, current participants in the program, and the staff of the day report center. Also in attendance was Circuit Court Judge Patrick N. Wilson.

Manchin asked the FDA to change opiates from a Schedule III to a Schedule II substance, making it harder for patients to be prescribed them, Manchin said. The problem was that it took the FDA three years to do this; it took so long because of the culture of the FDA, which has received research funding from pharmaceutical companies for years, Manchin said. Since the schedule change of opiates, 1.1 billion less opiate pills have been prescribed with a 22 percent total reduction, Manchin said.

Many nonviolent first time drug offenders are convicted of a felony and “that person can’t get back in mainstream, they’re done,” Manchin said.

If their community is willing to vouch for them maybe the sentence could be reduced to a misdemeanor, Manchin said.

“If you look at it as a disease it means you need to cure it. If you look at it as a crime, no matter what degree, then you basically lock people away. We’ve done that for over 20 years. Twenty years later it hasn’t worked. They go in with addiction, they come out with addiction. We’re not curing anybody. Rather than throwing a felony

and throwing them in jail, can’t we save them, can’t we get them into a drug rehabilitation program, make them productive again? Those are the things we have to look at,” Manchin said.

Manchin asked for the day report center employees’ help in his efforts to get sentences reduced. He asked that if the participants in the program agree he wanted to take letters written by them to read on the Senate floor.

“I am looking for stories from West Virginians on how prescription drug abuse has affected their lives,” Manchin said in a letter. “I will read these stories on the Senate floor when I filibuster Robert Califf’s FDA nomination so that my colleagues, and the entire nation, can hear first hand how the prescription drug epidemic is devastating our nation,” Manchin said in the letter.

People that would like their stories to be heard can send their information and their story toendtheopioidcrisis@Manchin.senate.gov. People can also send letters to Manchin’s offices in Charleston, Martinsburg, Fairmont, or Washington D.C. The address are available on his website at www.manchin.senate.gov.

Manchin, along with Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vermont, Sen. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska are all trying to slow down the nomination of Dr. Robert Califf as head of the FDA, Manchin said.

“Dr. Robert Califf is a good man, a really good person and very honorable. He just comes from a 20-year culture where everything he has done has been paid for by the pharmaceuticals. There’s no way he’s going to say ‘we’re going a different direction now’. It’s just human nature. We just need a cultural change,” Manchin said.

The kind of person who should be in charge of the FDA is a physician who has gone in a different direction, one who knows there is an alternative to treating pain with addictive drugs, Manchin said.

Opioid addiction is something he is totally committed to stopping, Manchin said.

“I know it’s business for big pharmaceuticals and I’m sorry but you’re not going to destroy lives and destroy America just because of a businesss plan,” Manchin said.

“Having a senator helping with this problem, having a congressman interested in this problem, this is sea change for us. No one came around six years ago to talk to us about this problem. It has just become an epidemic and everybody’s saying ‘what are we going to do?’” Ted Offutt, director of the Marion County Day Report Center, said.

“The fact that we have congressmen and senators that are working with us gives us a lot better chance to really affect the problem,” Offutt said.

By:  Michelle Dillon