Back to The Journey of Health and Well-being for West Virginia and the World

The Pope and Hope for All

It is a very exciting time for the world. And that hope is materializing in the highest religious officer of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis.

He is refreshing to hear, whether you are a Catholic nor not. By answering to a higher power, he is clear on his “why:” Stand up for the less powerful and infirmed. Support nature’s most precious resources and provide hope for all that will listen. Rewrite the history of the world.

Seems like a pretty good reason to get out of bed in the morning.

I recently read the book Dreamland, by journalist Sam Quinones, about the opiate and heroin problem plaguing cities and small towns across the country. He tells the tale of how people and families in Huntington, West Virginia, and Portsmouth and Columbus, Ohio, were devastated by addiction. It is an amazingly well written and important book.

For as little as $6.50 per day, a person in these areas can be supplied with very pure black tar heroin. The drug was manufactured and delivered in a corporate way, with focus on customer satisfaction and referrals to others.

This approach, often sold to people addicted to opioids like Oxycontin, who cannot supply or afford their addiction to the opioid, has led to a frightening statistic.

Today, here in West Virginia, deaths from drug overdoses are the leading cause of death for adults under 45 years old.

More deaths from drug overdose than from car accidents for younger West Virginians – Wow!!

In fact, we lead the country in deaths from drug overdoses at almost double the national rate.

Why is this true of our state?

Although many have speculated on why this problem exists, I think it is intertwined with the critical issues of fatalism and lack of driving purpose.

We need to create hope and purpose for our populace.

Recreating the American Dream through targeting education that leads to jobs  -- and changing the stories we are telling each other and telling the world about our state is a great start.

The Pope is instilling a new hope for our country and world. We need to do the same for our state.