Drugs have been at the forefront of national thinking for decades, transforming every few years as new kinds grab hold of the national spotlight. Although it has been a national policy to fight the “war on drugs,” it’s much more difficult to win when the battlefield is always changing. Even with the effort put into reducing drug-related addictions and deaths, the middle to lower-income communities have been hit especially hard.

The most recent ongoing drug epidemic is opioid addiction. Opioids are highly addictive, and people can get access to them with a simple doctor’s prescription. Unfortunately, though, these prescriptions can truly ruin people’s lives instead of helping them, but as our government has been slow to find an answer, various charities and organizations are starting to step in to help.

The Opioid Epidemic in West Virginia

Studies have shown that drug abuse is more rampant in lower-income communities, which is exactly where opioids have hurt people the most. People in lower-income communities often lack the financial and socioeconomic means to seek help, stay in rehabs or move away from the drug presence where they live. West Virginia is struggling with a rise in poverty, connecting it to the heart of the opioid epidemic.

In 2018, West Virginia had a poverty rate of 19.1 percent, the fourth highest in the country. The state’s poverty rate will not likely decrease any time soon. The business of coal mining is slowing, as green energy alternatives become more mainstream. Because many communities in West Virginia were built around coal mines, it’s causing a devastating poverty crisis for many of the state’s residents. Since poverty keeps the door open for heroin abuse as a result of opioid use, West Virginia’s communities have a particularly tough fight ahead.

How NESCorp Helps

The National Education Support Corporation, or NESCorp, was founded in 2017 to help educate West Virginia residents and give them a solid foundation to build their lives on. Education opportunities are an important first step, especially since communities that face high poverty levels often don’t get university level educations.

Instead of trying to pay for a college degree, low-income families in West Virginia can attend training through NESCorp and learn varying skills. These skills are industry-specific, so they can be easily channeled into a budding career once the classes are done. There’s also educators for kids and assessment tests you can take to determine which career is right for you. The opportunities this presents to the West Virginia community are priceless. As people learn and use those skills to create better lives for themselves, they’ll be less likely to fall victim to the opioid epidemic.

Finding the Right Kind of Fix

Offering educational programs to at-risk areas is just one way that communities across our nation are starting to invest in new ways to help people in pain without relying on medication. The road ahead is a long one, but thankfully we are finally waking up to this crisis. One solution being proposed on a wide scale is Medicaid that covers alternative therapies like acupuncture, massage therapy and laser therapy. These have proven to be effective at treating chronic pain, but in the past, these kinds of treatments would have all been paid for out of pocket — something many people just don’t have the money for. Now, more insurance companies are looking to cover those treatments.

Opioids have gripped the U.S. in a drug epidemic, specifically in lower-income communities and with those who live in poverty. Education provided by charities like NESCorp is a great first step in reversing the harm done by drug addiction. Once people can change their lives and access help, they have more opportunities to use alternative methods of treatment and free themselves of drug use. The tide is beginning to turn, and it all starts with community outreach.

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About Author

Kate Harveston covers social justice and human rights issues. She graduated with a Bachelors in English and minored in Criminal Justice, so she enjoys writing about anything related to the intersections of law, politics and culture. For more of her writing, you can visit her blog, Only Slightly Biased.

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