This morning, ACLU-WV sent to Gov. Jim Justice a letter on behalf of almost 300 West Virginians that work, advocate, or volunteer with individuals who are directly impacted by injection drug use.
These signatories, including physicians, epidemiologists, nurses, recovery coaches, and clergy, came together in fewer than 24 hours to make this urgent call to the Governor.
The letter lays out the case for why Senate Bill 334—which will all but eradicate harm reduction in West Virginia—will result in even more lives lost to the opioid epidemic. As the letter states:
"West Virginia has been seen as a model nationwide for our rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine and our response to the pandemic. You wisely listened to public health professionals and the CDC when leading the state on these issues.
This is no less a public health crisis. People in this state are dying from HIV and other bloodborne diseases transmitted by injection drug use. Many, many, more will die if this cruel legislation is enacted into law. As you may know, when former Vice President Pence was governor in Indiana, his anti-harm reduction policies led directly to an HIV outbreak that affected more than 230 people in a small, rural town of 4,000. He had to reverse course and issue an emergency order to provide for sterile syringe distribution.
If this goes into law, you will no doubt be in the same position. Just as the CDC tells us that wearing a mask will protect both ourselves and our neighbors, it tells us that low barrier, evidence-based harm reduction programs save lives. We know you believe in science and that you care for the health of every Mountaineer. Veto this bill."
ACLU-WV joins these West Virginians in urging the Governor to Veto 334. Harm reduction saves lives.