BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — West Virginia has one of the nation’s highest overdose death rates, at 81 overdose deaths for every 100,000 people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Raleigh County Commission is considering a plan to hire a nurse for the county’s Day Report Center. The nurse will give opioid addicted Day Report inmates a monthly injection that is intended to lessen or stop opioid cravings and withdrawal symptoms, Raleigh County Commission President David Tolliver confirmed on Wednesday, January 18, 2023.

The plan comes from long-time Raleigh County Circuit Court Judge H.L. Kirkpatrick.
Judge Kirkpatrick said on Thursday, January 19, 2023, that he brainstormed the idea after speaking with opioid patients who reported the drug naltrexone – injected once a month by a medical professional—had kept them from relapsing to opioid use.

Dr. Hasan Jafary, a Beckley psychiatrist, said his patients have seen successful treatment of opioid use disorder with extended-release buprenorphine, which works similarly to naltrexone and also requires a monthly injection. He said the drug helps substance use disorder patients to work, take care of their families and rebuild their lives.

“They can get this treatment. They will have no craving. They can work normally, like a normal person,” said Jafary. “It will decrease the cost on Medicaid or any insurance program.”

Raleigh County Commission will hear from Jafary and other physicians during a public hearing in February, when commissioners may question doctors about the injection treatments.

Raleigh County Commission and a number of counties in the state struggle to pay jail bills, and West Virginia Department of Homeland Security officials reported in 2020 that Southern Regional Jail houses prisoners beyond the facility’s capacity.

Critics of the treatment plan say addicted patients are trading one drug for another, but Jafary said the medicine treats the disease of addiction. Without it, he said, about 90 percent of patients return to opioid use.

“If you’re diabetic or have hypertension, medication is important,” said Jafary. “Addiction treatment is as much important to continue their family life, their jobs and their daily life, and they can be successful to do that, and we have many, many examples in our office.”

County officials could seek grants or pay for the proposed program with funds from an opioid settlement with Endo Health, which was made in June 2022.