Internet Explorer 11 is not supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Drug Czar Quits After Just 4 Months in Nation's Overdose Capital

West Virginia's drug czar resigned Thursday, after a little more than four months on the job.

By Eric Eyre

West Virginia's drug czar resigned Thursday, after a little more than four months on the job.

Jim Johnson, director of the state's new Office of Drug Control Policy, was hired to help lead the effort to reduce drug overdose deaths. West Virginia has the highest fatal overdose rate in the nation.

Johnson's sudden departure comes just days after the release of a preliminary report on ways to combat the opioid epidemic. Johnson had served on a panel of experts that drew up the report. A final report is expected before the end of the month.

Johnson, who started the job Sept. 2, spoke at a House of Delegates committee meeting last week, but he gave no hint that he was planning to step down.

In a news release Thursday, West Virginia health officials characterized Johnson's departure as a "retirement." Johnson will work part-time for the state on unspecified "special projects."

"I have decided that after 45 years, it really is time to enjoy retirement, although I am still excited and appreciative for the opportunity to continue some of those efforts to combat this terrible disease," Johnson said in the release.

Johnson was the director of Huntington's Office of Drug Control Policy for three years. He previously was a police officer and interim police chief in Huntington.

In 2011, then-governor Earl Ray Tomblin created the Governor's Advisory Council on Substance Abuse and six regional task forces to address substance abuse in West Virginia.

During the 2017 legislative session, lawmakers created the state Office of Drug Control Policy and, last month, Gov. Jim Justice signed an executive order stating that the Governor's Advisory Council on Substance Abuse would become an advisory board to the Office of Drug Control Policy.

In recent interviews about the transition, two members of the Advisory Council on Substance Abuse, Prestera CEO Karen Yost and Mark Drennan, executive director of the West Virginia Behavioral Healthcare Providers Association, said no one from the Department of Health and Human Resources or the drug office had contacted them about whether they would continue to serve and in what capacity.

Susie Mullens, program manager at the drug control office, has been appointed interim director of the agency.

(c)2018 The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, W.Va.)

Caroline Cournoyer is GOVERNING's senior web editor.
Special Projects
Sponsored Stories
Sponsored
In recent years, local governments have been forced to adapt to a wildly changing world, especially as it pertains to sending bills and collecting payments.
Sponsored
Workplace safety is in the spotlight as government leaders adapt to a prolonged pandemic.
Sponsored
While government employees, students and the general public had to wait in line for hours in the beginning of the pandemic, at-home test kits make it easy to diagnose for the novel coronavirus in less than 30 minutes.
Sponsored
Governments around the nation are working to design the best vaccine policies that keep both their employees and their residents safe. Although the latest data shows a variety of polarizing perspectives, there are clear emerging best practices that leading governments are following to put trust first: creating policies that are flexible and provide a range of options, and being in tune with the needs and sentiments of their employees so that they are able to be dynamic and accommodate the rapidly changing situation.
Sponsored
Service delivery and the individual experience within health and human services (HHS) is often very siloed and fragmented.
Sponsored
In this episode, Marianne Steger explains why health care for Pre-Medicare retirees and active employees just got easier.
Sponsored
Government organizations around the world are experiencing the consequences of plagiarism firsthand. A simple mistake can lead to loss of reputation, loss of trust and even lawsuits. It’s important to avoid plagiarism at all costs, and government organizations are held to a particularly high standard. Fortunately, technological solutions such as iThenticate allow government organizations to avoid instances of text plagiarism in an efficient manner.
Sponsored
Creating meaningful citizen experiences in a post-COVID world requires embracing digital initiatives like secure and ethical data sharing, artificial intelligence and more.
Sponsored
GHD identified four themes critical for municipalities to address to reach net-zero by 2050. Will you be ready?