Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

February 20, 2013

Delegate: Suboxone bill would have no impact on McDowell treatment facility

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

WELCH — A local delegate said a bill aiming to make possession of Suboxone without a prescription a felony will not have any bearing on the patients of a new rehabilitation clinic in McDowell County.

House Bill 2503 would add the drug Suboxone to the list of schedule IV controlled substances in West Virginia, making possession of the drug without a prescription a felony offense. Suboxone is a prescription narcotic currently being used to treat patients at a long-anticipated rehabilitation clinic run out of the Southern Highlands Community Mental Health Center in Welch.

Delegate Cliff Moore, D-McDowell, said Tuesday the bill would have no impact on patients receiving Suboxone treatment at the clinic in Welch.

“Just like any other prescription drug, if you are caught with it and don’t have prescription for it you are within violation of the law,” Moore said. “You have to have a medically approved prescription for the drug by a doctor, otherwise you will pay the consequences. For example, a patient at the Suboxone clinic may need to take Suboxone home over a long weekend to maintain their stability. They can legallyhave that Suboxone over the weekend because they have a prescription from a doctor at the clinic. Someone without that prescription will be in violation of the laws.”

Moore said he believes making possession of Suboxone without a prescription illegal will strengthen the new clinic in McDowell County.

“It won’t have a major impact on the clinic,” he said. “I think this will actually strengthen the operations of the clinic. We are preventing Suboxone from getting on the street like other drugs. We are trying to be proactive rather than reactive. It will not cause any problems for any patient with a prescription. I wanted to have some build in protection for our clinic back at home and not be on the reactive end. I do understand it has posed problems for other communities. I wanted to get rid of the perception we are taking this lightly. We want to be on the front of this rather than on the back end.”

Moore said there has been an overwhelming response to the new treatment clinic.

“I do know we have far more requests for services at the clinic than we have slots available,” Moore said. “In working with Southern Highlands and other community-based folks we are trying to come up with creative ways to increase the number of patients we see. It is a great sign that people know it is open and are requesting the services, but it is a bad sign that the requests are higher than the number of slots.”

As there are only 24 slots open at the clinic, Moore said officials with Southern Highlands are working to recruit more doctors so they can expand the number of clients seen at the clinic.

“They are trying to recruit more doctors and specialists to help increase the number of people we can help,” Moore said. “We are working hard to get more doctors to respond to the need. We want to be more responsive to the request and satisfy the need.”

— Contact Kate Coil at