West Virginia Drug Czar Wants Rising Death Toll Stopped

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) – The director of West Virginia’s new Office of Drug Control Policy starts his new job on Tuesday, and he wants to get out into communities to see what they’re doing and to offer the state’s help in fighting the opioid epidemic.

Jim Johnson tells Charleston Gazette-Mail that one of his first priorities is to halt West Virginia’s rising death toll from prescription drugs.

West Virginia has the nation’s highest drug overdose death rate, with 41.5 deaths per 100,000 people in 2015. State health officials say overdose deaths rose nearly 18 percent last year.

Johnson was director of Huntington’s Office of Drug Control Policy from 2014 until his retirement this year.

The Office of Drug Control Policy is overseen by the Bureau for Public Health.