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News : Tomblin Proposes 24-hour Drug Abuse Call Center
Charleston, W.Va., Nov 10,2 014 -- West Virginians with questions about behavior health services will have a place to call at all hours of the day and night.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced that the state plans to set up a 24-hour call center that will refer people to treatment programs and facilities across the state.
"The center will create a centralized access resource for behavioral health needs in West Virginia and address the top two identified barriers for individuals seeking services: access and navigation," said Health and Human Resources Secretary Karen Bowling in a statement.
Workers at West Virginia’s first Behavioral Health Referral and Outreach Call Center will monitor a database that tracks patient-care options, such as the availability of beds at residential facilities across the state. The referral database will be updated daily.
Tomblin said the call center would help combat the state’s problem with substance abuse. West Virginia has the highest drug overdose death rate in the nation — and the seventh-highest suicide rate.
"As we continue to work with affected families, doctors, pharmacists and law enforcement in communities across the state, we must look at substance abuse from all angles and identify ways to combat this epidemic," Tomblin said in a statement. "By investing in support services, we can increase access to preventive services and substance abuse treatment options."
The call center will work closely with "on-call" crisis support programs throughout West Virginia, according to Tomblin’s news release. The center also will distribute education materials. Call center workers will check back with callers to ensure they’ve received satisfactory behavior health services, the release said.
"We are so pleased that Governor Tomblin embraced this concept as a way to help all West Virginians as we continue to fight substance abuse and focus on the importance of early intervention, treatment and support," Bowling said.
An outside organization will manage the call center and hire employees. DHHR plans to solicit bids for a contractor in the coming months.
"The cost to run the call center will be determined after the proposals are submitted and awarded," said Allison Adler, a DHHR spokeswoman.
At a meeting in August, the Governor’s Advisory Council on Substance Abuse "prioritized" the behavior health call referral center, after the council’s regional task forces recommended it, DHHR officials said.
The advisory council didn’t recommend a behavioral health call center or list such a center as a priority in any of the council’s annual reports to the governor over the past three years.
Last year, the council voted overwhelmingly to recommend legislation that would require a prescription for cold medications containing pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient used to make illegal methamphetamine. The prescription-only requirement received more votes than any other council proposal, but Tomblin would not support the measure. A bill designed to reduce meth labs died on the last night of the legislative session.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Tuesday, November 11, 2014