CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Arrests alone will not solve West Virginia's prescription drug abuse problem, the state's top law enforcement leaders said Thursday.
West Virginia must reach out to children and take steps to prevent substance abuse, officials including U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin and State Police Col. Jay Smithers told a crowd gathered in Charleston for the West Virginia Drug Endangered Children Conference.
"Law enforcement cannot arrest our way out of this problem," Smithers said. "It's way beyond that."
West Virginia has the nation's highest rate of drug overdose deaths. More than 90 percent involve prescription drugs.
At the conference, Goodwin, the federal prosecutor for the Southern District of West Virginia, released a report with his recommendations for fighting prescription drug abuse.
The document follows a summit his office hosted in February and includes recommendations for the medical, educational and law enforcement communities.
Health providers should follow "best practices" for treating chronic pain while trying to manage the risk of painkiller addiction, the report says.
Those include using the state's prescription drug monitoring program, an electronic database that tracks prescriptions for controlled substances carrying a high risk of abuse, such as anti-anxiety and pain medications. For patients who are susceptible to substance abuse, doctors should require pill counts, random drug testing, and an agreement that the patient will use only one pharmacy.
The state can collaborate with existing coalitions to reach out to elementary-school children with prevention and intervention programs, the report says. Goodwin's office hopes the state's Controlled Substances Advisory Board can carry out five county pilot projects this fall.
Goodwin also wants communities to host more "take-back programs," where people can get rid of unused prescription medications, especially controlled substances such as anti-anxiety and painkiller pills. West Virginians should have access to these events four times a year, the report says.
Academic institutions and licensing boards should offer health professionals education on prescription drug abuse, the report says.