West Virginia overdoses overwhelm state burial assistance program

Drug overdose deaths in West Virginia have overwhelmed the state's indigent burial program for the fifth consecutive year, according to The Washington Post.

 

The burial program allots $2 million annually for funeral assistance to families who cannot afford to bury their loved ones. The program provides an average of $1,250 per burial.

Allison Adler, a spokesperson for state Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Bill Crouch, told the Post in the current fiscal year "1,508 burials have been submitted for payment through the indigent burial program. There are funds remaining for 63 burials."

In fiscal year 2014, the program was completely depleted of funds by June. In 2015, the funds were gone by March. Drug overdose deaths for West Virginia in 2015 occurred at a rate of 41.5 cases per 100,000 residents, the highest rate in the nation, according to the Post.

"I've heard from several funeral directors that the majority of [overdose deaths they deal with] are addressed via the indigent burial program," Robert Kimes of the West Virginia Funeral Directors Association told the Post.

Mr. Kimes went on to state that most overdoses occur among young people with limited resources, lamenting the young age of the overdose victims. 

From 2007 to 2012, more than 1,700 West Virginians fatally overdosed on hydrocodone and oxycodone alone. During the same time period, drug companies poured these two drugs into the state. The widespread distribution amounted to 433 pain pills for every man, woman and child in West Virginia, according to a Charleston Gazette-Mail investigation. In February, the state's health department distributed more than 8,000 rescue kits equipped with two doses of the opioid anti-overdose drug to state treatment programs.

Note: This story has been updated to add context to statements from quoted parties.

More articles on opioids: 
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Study: Only 35% of patients taking opioids are concerned about addiction risks

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