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Williams Named to National Task Force to Address Opioid Abuse

Mayor Steve Williams was named Monday, March 7, to a joint national task force created by the National League of Cities (NLC) and National Association of Counties (NACo) to address the nation’s opioid and heroin abuse epidemic.

The City-County Task Force Addressing Heroin and Opioid Abuse, comprised of city and county leaders from across the country, aims to enhance awareness, facilitate peer exchanges, and identify sound policy and partnership solutions.

“I’m pleased that the efforts of our community to collaboratively and aggressively address the problem of opiate addiction are being acknowledged nationally,” Williams said. “I am looking forward to sharing our story with other municipal and county leaders across the nation and learning from their experiences to bolster what we already have in place in Huntington.”

NLC and NACo elected leaders will explore proven practices for community prevention and overdose response, effective treatment options, and public safety enforcement and supply reduction. NACo and NLC will share opportunities, challenges and issues local jurisdictions face when addressing opioid and heroin abuse in our communities.

The task force builds on the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy's four-pillared plan to reduce prescription drug abuse: education, monitoring, proper medication disposal, and enforcement.

The task force will take the following actions:

• Conduct at least two national dialogues where city and county elected leaders will explore the comprehensive issues related to this crisis, growing trends and proven responses
• Develop educational opportunities for counties and cities through special forums, educational workshops, webinars and other opportunities
• Publish a national summary report of city-county collaboration, focusing on community prevention and overdose response, effective treatment options, public safety enforcement and supply reduction

Counties and cities have recognized that the opioid and heroin abuse crisis has reached epidemic proportions. Drug overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, with more than 47,000 lethal drug overdoses in 2014. This epidemic is driven largely by overdose deaths related to prescription pain relievers (18,893) and deaths related to heroin (10,574). In 2015, there were 944 overdoses in Cabell County, 70 of which were fatal. Fifty-eight of those fatal overdoses occurred within Huntington city limits.

"The rapidly increasing number of deaths from heroin overdoses and other opioids has reached epidemic proportions," said National League of Cities President Melodee Colbert-Kean, who is councilmember in Joplin, Missouri. "The National League of Cities is pleased to partner with county leaders at NACo to provide coordinated, intergovernmental solutions to this tragic problem."

Williams created the Mayor’s Office of Drug Control Policy in November 2014 to combat the growing drug epidemic in the region. This strategy was born out of the recognition that drug addiction is not only a criminal justice problem, but also a public health and economic issue.
In the past year alone, the MODCP has worked with approximately 50 partner agencies to acquire $3 million of federal, state and private nonprofit grants and in-kind assistance. In-kind assistance includes a donation of 2,200 doses of the life-saving drug Naloxone, which is being supplied to family members of drug addicts, first responders and schools in Cabell County.

The MODCP and its partner agencies have established a holistic Harm Reduction Program, which includes West Virginia’s first syringe-exchange program. The MODCP also has assisted in creating West Virginia’s first specialty adult drug court program for prostitution. The program provides supervision and diverts nonviolent, drug-addicted prostitutes into treatment as an alternative to incarceration. Other solutions include a pre-booking diversion pilot program to address low-level drug crimes and drug testing kits for parents to prevent drug use among youths.

“Once overdoses decline, deaths diminish, and drug crimes are minimized we will realize on the other side of this epidemic that we have learned to trust one another,” Williams said. “Because of our collaboration, we will be prepared to take the next step toward building lasting progress in our neighborhoods.”

The City-County Task Force Addressing Heroin and Opioid Abuse task force members include:

NLC Members
1. Co-Chair – Mayor Mark Stodola, Little Rock, Ark.
2. Councilmember Leta Mach, Greenbelt, Md.
3. Mayor Nan Whaley, Dayton, Ohio
4. Mayor Steve Williams, Huntington, W.Va.
5. Police Chief Nick Willard, Manchester, N.H.
6. Council President Ceasar Mitchell, Atlanta, Ga.
7. City Manager Lee Feldman, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
8. Mayor and Councilmember Walt Allen, Corvina, Calif.
9. Councilmember Joel Navarro, Tempe Ariz.
10. Executive Director Geoff Beckwith, Massachusetts Municipal Association
11. Councilmember Lavonta Williams, Witchita, Kansas 
12. Ex-Officio: NLC President Melodee Colbert-Kean, councilmember, Joplin, Mo.

NACo Members
1. Co-Chair – Judge & Executive Gary Moore, Boone County, Ky.
2. Commissioner Matt Bell, Weber County, Utah
3. Commissioner Doug Corcoran, Ross County, Ohio
4. County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper, Erie County, Pa.
5. Dr. Vidya Kora, commissioner, LaPorte County, Ind.
6. Commissioner Waymon Mumford, Florence County, S.C.
7. Supervisor Leticia Perez, Kern County, Calif.
8. County Executive Mark Poloncarz, Erie County, N.Y.
9. Commissioner Greg Puckett, Mercer County, W.Va.
10. County Executive Steve Schuh, Anne Arundel County, Md.
11. Commissioner Judy Shiprack, Multnomah County, Ore.
12. Ex-Officio: NACo President Sallie Clark, commissioner, El Paso County, Colo.

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