Bob Hansen, the director of the state Office of Drug Control Policy, is retiring, according to West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources spokeswoman Allison Adler.
In an email Wednesday afternoon, Adler said Gov. Jim Justice “will be announcing a new director soon.”
Hansen took over as ODCP head in December 2018. He was the third person to lead the agency since it was created by the Legislature in 2017. When he took the role, it had been vacant for eight months after Dr. Michael Brumage resigned in March 2018.
Jim Johnson, former Huntington police chief and director of the Huntington Mayor’s Office of Drug Control Policy, was the first leader of the state ODCP, but retired in January 2018.
Before Justice named him to the position, Hansen worked as the director of Addiction Services at the Marshall University School of Medicine and Marshall Health Systems and served as CEO of Prestera Center.
As Hansen joined the ODCP, he assisted Justice in launching the West Virginia Governor’s Council on Substance Abuse, Prevention and Treatment, which was supposed to roll out in 2017 to help guide and direct resources at ODCP for addiction services and recovery.
West Virginia annually leads the nation in drug overdoses and overdose deaths, according to data from the DHHR.
While DHHR data suggests that opioid use may be down in the Mountain State, meth use is consistently on the rise, bringing with it new treatment challenges.
In 2017, the state surpassed 1,000 fatal drug overdoses for the first time. While preliminary overdose data from 2019 suggests that fatal drug overdoses may be decreasing in West Virginia, health experts worry the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic may reverse any progress made.
So far in 2020, there have been increases in the number of emergency calls and emergency room visits involving drug overdoses, according to data from the ODCP.
It’s too soon to tell how many fatal overdoses have occurred in 2020, as that information will not be released until next year, when death reports and autopsies are verified by the DHHR.