West Virginia’s health care crisis

Knowles became the area’s first recovery-services coordinator last year, taking on responsibility for connecting residents with rehab facilities, running support groups and serving as the primary lifeline for addicts across hundreds of square miles in the state’s easternmost region. He runs the operation on a $70,000 annual grant — just enough to hire two additional employees.

Martinsburg and surrounding Berkeley County are among the state’s hardest hit by an opioid epidemic that’s spread indiscriminately through the community. Last summer, a candidate for Berkeley County sheriff needed to be revived twice in 12 hours from apparent opioid overdoses.

The GOP repeal effort “would affect this state tremendously, in a negative way,” said Knowles, a Democrat.

Outside his office, Knowles erected a Christmas tree over the holidays on which residents could hang ornaments memorializing friends and family lost to addiction. More than 50 ornaments now hang there, each bearing at least one name.

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