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In news from the state with the highest rate of overdose deaths and COVID-19 deaths in the country, Gov. Jim Justice got his feelings hurt last week.

Charleston Mayor Amy Goodwin sent a public letter last Wednesday, asking the governor to convene a special legislative session focused on the drug, mental illness and homelessness crises plaguing the state and its capital city.

“Amy, baby, listen,” he responded the next day, during a virtual COVID-19 briefing. “Listen. If you can get the Legislature to go along with a special session to discuss these bills, I’ll absolutely do it.”

The first female mayor of West Virginia’s capital city, Goodwin had said she wanted to see a Behavioral Health Reform Council, fund mental health courts and crisis services, pass a state-level mental health parity law and keep more mental health professionals in the state.

Sometimes referred to as a “billionaire,” the millionaire munchkin and coal baron Justice (or as I like to call him, “Schnookums”) dismissed the mayor’s request as a “political move to cover up her deficiencies,” and an attempt to deflect from problems like homelessness in Charleston. But, as usual, the little tyke offered nothing to address West Virginia’s status as one of the poorest states in the country.

Instead, Sweet Pea pointed blame at the city and was apparently aghast to find a few items of a real, live human homeless person in the general vicinity of the multimillion-dollar Governor’s Mansion.

“I mean they’re like dead out in front of the mansion,” said Governor Sweet Cheeks.

(Justice, affectionately referred to by lawmakers as a “part-time governor,” is constitutionally required to reside in Charleston but had to be sued into placating naysayers by pinky-swearing he would live in the mansion)

Justice’s inhumane reaction to the sparse belongings outside of the mansion was apparently too much for even his loyal adviser, Roman Stauffer. “These photos of the homeless encampment that was set up across from Governor @JimJusticeWV’s residence in Charleston that he referenced during today’s media briefing really would’ve added color to the story,” the sugarplum wrote on Twitter in response to a MetroNews story.

(Roman, bestie, thank you for posting the very sad photos of the belongings on Twitter, in an apparent effort to at least try to inspire more compassionate media coverage about the plight of the homeless.)

It’s highly unlikely the Legislature will convene to do things that would help solve problems like the behavioral health care crisis in West Virginia. After all, this is the same Legislature that routinely increases criminal penalties in an apparent effort to exacerbate the ongoing jail overcrowding and COVID-outbreak crises. So, Goodwin probably didn’t think her move was going to work.

And Lovebug said during his “press conference” that the National Alliance to End Homelessness found that homelessness is decreasing in the state, except possibly in Charleston, Pudding Pie added, accusingly.

But governor, Bunny, according to the alliance, homelessness started decreasing in Charleston, too. On your watch, West Virginia announced a record number of overdose deaths for 2020, while lawmakers were passing a bill essentially banning lifesaving harm reduction (needle exchange) programs.

Listen, boo, I get it.

Nationally, the pandemic, drug epidemic and capitalism are killing all Americans at unprecedented rates. Not just those in West Virginia.

But calm down, dumpling. Your voice when you were talking about the four items of a homeless person’s clothing you found outside the Governor’s Mansion was even approaching shrill, buddy.

Dollface, who is deflecting?

As you may know, Jimbo, harm reduction programs provide people who use drugs with clean syringes to prevent HIV and hepatitis C in the community. They also train them to use the overdose-reversal drug naloxone and connect them with people who care enough to encourage them to enter treatment, if and when they are ready.

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Without access to naloxone, people die, honeybunch. And because you signed a bill heavily restricting them, harm reduction programs are already closing down here in West Virginia.

Research shows these programs don’t make addiction more likely, and they don’t encourage crime, while they do make it much more likely that people will enter treatment.

Lil’ feller, you just happily signed a death sentence for other West Virginians.

Without access to clean syringes, people also are much more likely to contract a sometimes fatal disease, HIV.

Charleston passed its own version of an anti-harm reduction bill. Council members and Goodwin should rightfully be criticized for that.

But also on your watch, Shortcake, at least five counties and several towns that are not Charleston have experienced HIV outbreaks.

Pumpkin, after blathering about busting Detroit drug dealers in your inauguration speech, you waited eight months after the previous director stepped down to even appoint a director to the Office of Drug Control Policy. You didn’t even appoint members to the Governor’s Council on Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment until nearly two years into your term.

My dude, you took credit for a slight decrease in drug deaths in West Virginia in 2018, which has had the highest drug overdose death rate in the nation for more than a decade.

But Champ, if you’re not going to take blame for the increase in deaths, you can’t take credit for the decline.

Sugar, you accused Mayor Goodwin of trying to deflect from problems related to homelessness in the capital city. But ole pal, people experiencing homelessness, and the service providers that help them, have told us they come from other areas of the state experiencing economic decline.

If Justice weren’t so busy constantly making nonsense promises about the future of the declining coal industry, and asking lawmakers to bail out coal plants, he’d know people from the poorest parts of the state, so-called coal country, have been coming here to Charleston for help.

“There’s an old saying,” Cutie Patootie said during his press conference. “Those who live in glass houses ought not to be casting stones.”

In May 2018, Toots sent out a press release. Angel said he was rear-ended by a “drug-intoxicated” driver while sitting at a stoplight, and that the driver had allegedly been using marijuana.

“Fortunately for all, this could have been a tragedy,” Governor Sweetie Pie said at the time, “But this is a far better outcome.”

At least 1,275 West Virginians died of an overdose in 2020 — a 45% increase from the 878 deaths in 2019, and once again, the highest rate in the nation.

The governor thought the car wreck “could have been a tragedy,” and warned us about that “drug-intoxicated” driver. But existing tragedies in West Virginia include Justice signing bills that kill people struggling with addiction, as well as deflecting and refusing to answer questions about real problems in the state he governs.

The car wreck could have been a tragedy but, thankfully, no one died.

Erin Beck, of Charleston, is a writer and independent journalist who has covered the problems described in this piece, including poverty, homelessness, addiction and mental illness in West Virginia, throughout the governor’s administration and previously. She also lives near the West Virginia Capitol and the Governor’s Mansion, but, since the governor doesn’t allow in-person news conferences, hasn’t seen him in over a year.

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