The numbers are bleak. West Virginia leads the nation in overdose deaths with 52 per 100,000 residents. From 2007 – 2012 pharmaceutical companies shipped 780 million doses of oxycodone and hydrocodone into West Virginia -- about 430 pills per resident. In Williamson WV alone, a town of 3,000, over 20 million pain pills were shipped there from 2008 -2015.
Given these statistics, it is no wonder that very few West Virginia families have not suffered the consequences of a loved one’s addiction. And those consequences are great. Not only has death been suffered in the thousands, but dissolution of families in the many thousands more as a result of a parent’s addiction.
We must have sufficient prevention and rehabilitative programs and services. We can pay for such services with a one cent fee on each pill prescribed. There are simply far too many West Virginians struggling with addiction and far too few facilities and support groups.
Raise the Minimum Wage
Presently, the minimum wage in West Virginia is $8.75 an hour resulting in $18,200.00 a year. I truly do not know how families get by on this amount. More importantly, those families that do have little if any income left over to put towards education, savings or investment in a small business. As a consequence, families have no social or economic mobility despite their ambition to dream or achieve more.
Given these circumstances and cycle of poverty it creates, we should and must increase our minimum wage. An increase in wages will have a positive impact on our economy as minimum wage workers will have an income that is more than just survival from paycheck to paycheck, but affords opportunity and comfort for themselves and their families.
Family Leave and Child Care
No parent of an ill child nor an adult child of a feeble parent should lose their job or income as a consequence of a sick child or parent. That’s why we should support paid family leave. Paid leave means older adults and working people of all ages can continue to work and get the support they need to receive and provide critical care to their loved ones in need.
In addition, child care, day care and pre-k should be universal. Working poor parents should not have to choose between work and childcare. We live in a different society than we did twenty five years ago. Not everyone has a grand-parent, aunt or uncle available to take care of a child while his/her parents are working or going to school. As a consequence, working parents have little to no option of free family child care, and can’t afford paid childcare.
Public Employees Insurance Agency
The solution to PEIA needs to be permanent and protected. It also requires, “outside of the box” thinking. One idea is to lower premiums for PEIA members who receive care exclusively from University physicians, hospitals and clinics. In the last 10 years, both West Virginia University and Marshall University have increased the number of hospitals and clinics wherein their physicians and residents provide care to the public – so much so that every major city and every area of the state our Universities are providing healthcare. Our Universities would require less compensation in return for care provided, University provided care would stabilize premiums and the money spent on healthcare would stay in the state and support our major universities.
While our West Virginia hills provide a beauty that is truly unique in our country, those same hills make roads and bridges harder and costlier to build and maintain. As a consequence we must commit adequate resources to our state highways and bi-ways.
In addition, we need to make sure that all our cities and towns large and small are adequately connected via ample and sufficient broadband technologies and techniques. In today’s world, small businesses can only survive and prosper through adequate internet access, thereby opening the world to West Virginia entrepreneurs and enterprise.
Social Security Benefits
I support eliminating the state tax on social security benefits. West Virginia is one of thirteen states that taxes social security benefits and that needs to end. Our seniors deserve the benefits they worked for.