Stephen Smith in home for people in recovery

Recovery Can’t Wait

Recovery Can’t Wait

What WV Can’t Wait For

We will build a state where every life is worth saving, every first responder is treated with dignity, and every family has what they need to heal. (Add your name to the growing list of West Virginians who think we should treat the addiction crisis like the health crisis it is. ADD YOUR NAME TO SUPPORT THIS PLAN.)

LaTrobe Mission

What We’re Up Against

One Governor can’t solve the drug crisis alone. We need a groundswell of first responders, faith leaders, social workers, foster parents, everyday citizens, and most of all, people in recovery from substance use disorder and mental illness. Never in American history has one politician achieved the kind of change our state needs. 

This is the story of West Virginia. We could never hope to fight the Mine Wars without the leadership of miners–Black, white, and immigrant–marching together. We could never hope to win a civil rights movement without the leadership of Black people. We could never hope to win a teachers and school service strike–without the leadership of bus drivers, aides, and teachers. 

And we will never solve our drug epidemic without people in recovery leading the way.

People in recovery are already doing it. People like Starr Meadows in Summers County, a recovering Meth user, who is helped establish 12-step groups in her community and launched a hotline for people with substance use disorder… and she is doing it without grants or donations; she funds it with her $771 monthly income. People like Bridget in Mingo County, an ex-offender who regularly opens her home to people waiting for a treatment bed. People like Terry Collison in Huntington, who welcomes 130 people with substance use disorder into her program, each day. There’s Misti Hamilton in McDowell, there’s SOAR in Charleston, Opportunity House in Upshur County, and harm reduction programs growing around the state–all with the leadership of people in recovery. 

People in recovery are transforming our state from the bottom up, without much help at all from people in this Capitol.

Imagine a different government, a people’s government, where the people who carry the most pain also wield the most power.

Imagine a state where schools spend less time measuring test scores, and more time preparing kids for the real world–including a mental health professional in every school… not just to heal our kids, but to serve our teachers and aides who are carrying to much pain and deserve their support. 

Imagine a state that served working families first–a living wage, guaranteed child care and health care, paid leave–so that parents are not always living on the edge, scraping to get by. 

Imagine a state where we never again treated people with substance use disorder as criminals.  A state police force that fights drug companies and corporate crime, imagine the legalization of marijuana, Crisis Stabilization Units that divert people from jails to hospitals, and laws like “ban the box” that help ex-offenders find work instead of barring them from it. 

Imagine a state where we treat our first-responders, social workers, CPS workers and nurses with dignity. Where they all have access to mental health treatment and better pay. Where volunteer firefighters aren’t forced to buy their own workers compensation insurance, and nurses can afford health care.

Imagine a state where every human life was always worth saving.

Imagine babies getting the support they need and no adult life thrown away. Imagine community-based treatment being minutes away, not months. Imagine Recovery Community Centers that know that recovery is not one thing, that no two people have the same path. Imagine harm reduction– including evidence-based syringe exchanges–in every county. Imagine naloxone in every public building.  

Imagine a state where people in recovery are installed at every level of government, where there is a cabinet-level position for trauma. Imagine a state where people in recovery and first responders have more control of our drug response than drug companies and federal bureaucrats.

These aren’t our ideas. They are what we’re hearing from the people of West Virginia–in town halls and church basements, in meetings with first responders, community leaders, and people in recovery and their families.

That’s what gives us hope. The people of our state know exactly what needs to be done. All that’s left to do is fight for it. And West Virginians know how to fight. 

Our Plan

  1. We must clear the waiting lists. Everyone’s path to recovery from substance use disorder and mental illness is different. We will invest $80 million over 10 years in start-up costs to establish Recovery Centers regionally across the state–so no one ever has to wait months for treatment again. Drawing from the Pro Act model (and others), these centers will offer all of the following on-site (or through referral): MAT, abstinence-based care, naloxone training, peer recovery coaching, robust harm reduction, mental health treatment, Crisis Stabilization Units, primary care, job services, case management, and more. The Board of each Recovery Center will include representation from local first responders, medical professionals, community leaders–and a majority will be people in recovery. This system will draw from the Vermont “hub-and-spoke” model to create reliable, consistent, rural systems of treatment, prevention, mental health services, neo-natal abstinence syndrome (NAS), and crisis response. We will ensure that each region of the State has a lead (as opposed to a centralized statewide leadership model).
  2. Establish a Recovery Jobs Program that combines work and substance abuse recovery in a variety of industries (agriculture, infrastructure, etc.). Offer $10 million per year in tax incentives and grants to locally-owned businesses, non-profits, farmers, and cooperatives that provide jobs to people in recovery and ex-offenders, creating 500 jobs. (People in recovery will also have the opportunity to apply for jobs from our  Mountaineer Service Corps jobs plan, as well as for small business grants outlined in our Small Business Revolution plan.)
  3. Make the drug companies pay. Pursue all lawsuits, taxes, fees and other efforts to force the drug companies who have profited from our pain to fund the initiatives here.
  4. Push money to the grassroots, and change the face of recovery. Recruit, train, and empower 1,000 community-based responses to the crisis each year. Everywhere in West Virginia, people in recovery, churches, businesses, unions, community groups, and small businesses are taking on the burden of prevention, recovery, re-entry and emergency response. We will support that innovation with 1,000 mini-grants (averaging $10,000 each). This program will help us push money to the people on the frontlines, and conservatively create 100+ new jobs in this important field. It will help us innovate. And perhaps most important, it will create a network of 1,000+ leaders who can be called upon to tell their stories in schools, faith communities, and other arenas… so we can change the face of recovery.
  5. Choose treatment over prison.
    • We support full cannabis legalization (see our Legalize Cannabis plan), decriminalization, and expungement. For other narcotics, we will push toward downgrading possession crimes from felonies to misdemeanors that would not carry jail time.
    • We would partner with local hospitals and law enforcement agencies to launch Crisis Stabilization Units, mental health emergency services, LEAD, and QRT programs in all population centers. We can relieve the burden on first responders and police by getting people with substance use disorder into treatment, instead of prison.
    • We also support automatic expungement for all drug offenses after 3 years, and implementation of “Ban the Box” legislation, so that sufferers of substance use disorder are not continuously punished (i.e. blocked from: housing, jobs, food stamps) even after they have served their time.
    • We will institute drug testing of criminal informants–right now, people with substance use disorder are being paid by police to purchase drugs… without ever being tested or referred to treatment.
  6. Invest in our workforce. We must create “centers of excellence” within state technical colleges, colleges, and universities for training social workers, nurses, doctors, mental health professionals, and community health workers. $750,000 per year, to 10 universities, colleges, and technical colleges will help spur the expansion of these centers. This is vital to clearing the waiting lists for people seeking substance use treatment and, more broadly, mental health services. No one should ever have to wait months for substance use treatment or a chance to visit a therapist; no one should ever again die while waiting for treatment. (See Take Me Home Plan, Higher Ed for All plan, and our Education Plan, for how we will fund this higher education, and incentivize public health and public service workers with loan forgiveness.)
  7. Make each school a place of prevention, healing, and recreation. See full details in our Education Plan.
    • Guarantee that a combination of substance abuse prevention, crisis response (Narcan/etc.), life skills, and mental health resources exist in every school, every grade, every class.
    • Another effective strategy for preventing drug use is to provide healthy, easily accessible activities for children and families. We will employ shared use agreements to transform public schools into after-hours community centers, complete with meals covered by federal grant reimbursement. We could conservatively serve an additional 10 million meals this way. These arrangements can also be extended into summer programs, when possible.
    • Follow the lead of Pleasants County, and put at least one mental health professional in every school–to provide direct (reimbursed) mental health services to children, partner with local agencies to provide wraparound services for kids, support teachers and school personnel, and spearhead trauma-informed practices throughout the school environment for kids, parents, teachers, and school service personnel.    Plus, we’ll have these professionals available in pre-K. Counselor-to-student ratio will be aligned with the 250:1 ratio recommended by the American School Counselor Association), and we’ll alleviate counselor clerical work so that counselors are best able to serve our children.
  8. Place all 7,000 children who are in state custody. This includes legislation to insure that kinship families receive equal support and treatment as foster families, and programs that ensure that children of parents who are incarcerated get the visits and help they need. More importantly, with better access to treatment, we can also ensure that we treat entire families in place, in order to reduce trauma to children. We must also make sure that the babies and children of people with substance use disorder are at the center of every proposal on this plan as we train our workforce, as we reform our schools, as we transform our criminal justice and health care systems.
  9. Spread the Huntington model of providing crisis services, training, and support for our first responders. They deserve to be protected from secondary trauma. See our full First Responders plan, to examine how we are shifting training dollars, workers compensation, and other resources to our already-stretched first responders–in both urban and rural areas.
  10. Implement and expand our system for certifying, cataloguing and supporting recovery houses, in partnership with the WV Alliance of Recovery Residences – so that no person in recovery is taken advantage of.
  11. Require in-person training and continuing education units in harm reduction approaches, the social determinants of substance use, and trauma-informed, evidence-based overdose responses. This training will be required across all Emergency Medical Services systems across the state via the WV DHHR Bureau of Public Health, Office of Emergency Medical Services. (This includes both private contractors and public EMS providers).
  12. Create one simple database. Conduct a comprehensive review of drug referral centers per county and associated fees. All EMS/ER department providers should share this information with patients following overdose treatment and prior to their medical discharge.
  13. Establish a Community Engagement Foundation. This body would be empowered to swiftly and accountably implement these recommendations, and make sure that a majority of the Foundation’s leadership are people in recovery and their families. Hire a full-time grant writer, employed by state government, to help draw down as much federal and foundation grant funding for the above programs as possible.
  14. Every life is worth saving. We must increase access to naloxone, because every life is worth saving. We will update the Good Samaritan Act to offer further immunity to people who need Naloxone in an emergency (not just people who call it in), create free Naloxone days sponsored by the state (like Michigan just did), allow QRT teams and other first responders to do Naloxone dispensation (leave Naloxone behind for families, friends, etc or do more proactive tours, giving Naloxone to folks before an overdose), make it available during first-aid trainings, make Naloxone one of our target drugs for our bulk-buying program–and make it available in all public buildings, prisons, treatment centers, etc., and distribute it to all first responders.
  15. Establish a Taxpayer Council on Recovery, led by people with substance use disorder, their families, community leaders, first responders, and medical professionals – to drive the policy changes above and remain in close contact with people who have lived experience at the front lines of the crisis.
  16. See our plan to End Mass Incarceration for more information about how we plan to divert people with substance use disorder and other mental illness toward cost-effective treatment (and away from costly, traumatizing jail time), as well as plans for re-entry, expungement, mental health and drug courts, and restoration of drivers licenses, etc. See our plan to Cut Healthcare Costs, for how we reduce the costs of prescription drugs and use the savings to fund a wide range of treatment. See Prosecute Corrupt Politicians and Corporate Crime plan for how we will continue to police unethical providers and Big Pharma. 

How We Pay For It

Total $36.5 million.

Some costs are covered in other plans; for instance, costs for bringing some programs to schools are covered in the Education Plan, as outlined above, and some jobs will be created through the Mountaineer Service Corps Plan.

  • Treatment: $8 million
  • Recovery Jobs Program: $10 million
  • Mini-grants: $10 million 
  • Centers of Excellence: $7.5 million 
  • Establish a Community Engagement Foundation: $1 million

This opioid crisis ALONE is costing our state $8.8 billion per year; this plan will reduce those tremendous costs by far more than we’re spending.

For this plan, we’ll also pursue federal grants and foundation dollars. But we must also fight to recuperate as much of those funds as possible, to make Big Pharma execs–people who have gotten rich off of our pain–pay their fair share. We must stop accepting pennies on the dollar in these drug settlements, and aggressively pursue compensation from pharma companies that have torn our state apart.

Every one of our New Deal plans was written by West Virginians.

  • Our volunteers asked 11,000 of their neighbors, “What would you do if you were Governor?”
  • Our candidates attended 197 Town Halls, taking notes in community centers, church basements, union halls, and small businesses.
  • Educators met after work to start sketching out their perfect school.
  • Nurses traded ideas on the picket line.
  • Our county and constituency captains ratified a first platform in the fall of 2019 and updated it in the spring of 2020 to reflect the current pandemic.

But the legacy of this New Deal dates back to John Brown and Mother Jones, to the United Mine Workers of America and the suffragettes, to the Poor People’s Movement and the CIO.

No one politician or slate of candidates can win this plan alone. We need you.

If you have an idea for how to make this plan stronger, or if you would like to lend a hand to win it, contact our candidate for Governor Stephen Smith at

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