Does West Virginia Lead the Nation in Overdose Drug Death Rate? Yes

This Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017 photo shows an arrangement of pills of the opioid oxycodone-acetaminophen in New York. AP Photo.

As he runs for a U.S. Senate seat, Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., is seeking targeted funding for states grappling with opioid addiction.

Jenkins co-sponsored the Federal Opioid Response Fairness Act with Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster of New Hampshire and several other lawmakers, including fellow West Virginia Republican Rep. David McKinley.

The legislation, which awaits action in a House committee, would clarify that per capita overdose deaths should be a factor in distributing funding from the 21st Century Cures Act, a law passed in 2016 by overwhelming majorities in Congress and then signed into law by President Barack Obama.

In a March 20, 2018, press release to promote the bill, Jenkins wrote, “The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration announced on Monday that West Virginia will be receiving $330,000 in additional funding, as our state has the highest overdose death rate in the nation.”

Is Jenkins correct that West Virginia has “the highest overdose death rate in the nation”? Yes, according to official statistics from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For the most recent full year for which data is available, 2016, the CDC reported that West Virginia had the highest death rate due to drug overdoses. Here’s a list of the top five states, which also include Kuster’s home state of New Hampshire.

State Drug overdose death rate, per 100,000 residents
West Virginia 52.0
Ohio 39.1
New Hampshire 39.0
Pennsylvania 37.9
Kentucky 33.5

The comparison isn’t close: West Virginia’s drug overdose death rate is a full one-third higher than the state with the second-highest rate, Ohio.

On May 8, Jenkins will face West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey in the Republican Senate primary. The winner will challenge the state’s Democratic senator, Joe Manchin.

Our ruling

Jenkins said that West Virginia “has the highest overdose death rate in the nation.” That is accurate according to official federal data — in fact, the comparison is not even close. We rate the statement True.

This article was originally published on Politifact.

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