Ron Stollings: West Virginia needs an experienced leader (Opinion)

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As I watch what is happening in our state, my experience as a physician and state legislator make me uniquely qualified to lead West Virginia.

The coronavirus is attacking our elderly and most vulnerable populations, and it has left our economy in shambles.

The opioid crisis is tearing apart our communities and families as many children are being raised by someone other than their parents.

Prescription drug prices are skyrocketing and many of our elderly are making choices they shouldn’t have to make — pay for food or pay for medicine.

Our rural hospitals are closing because our government is reimbursing them only 30% of what it costs to provide the service. I will lead the effort for health care payment reform that will be patient- centered.

As a physician, with 34 years of experience, I know the health care challenges that our state is facing. I’ve worked on the front lines during the coronavirus and opioid epidemic.

I was the first person in West Virginia to recognize the danger the coronavirus posed to our population, and I introduced and passed an amendment to the state budget to set aside $2 million to fund our initial response to it.

As a state senator, I have a solid record of getting things done, no matter what party is in charge. I have 14 years of experience as a legislator and the relationships on both sides of the aisle to get things done.

During this legislative session alone, I led the passage of bills that will offer more transparency of drug prices; increase funding for foster care families and kinship care; expand essential broadband services; improve dental care for adult Medicaid members; and pursue programs that will allow our seniors to age in place.

These are all initiatives that will make a significant impact in the lives of West Virginians.

My proven record of success is not just a plan on paper, as my challengers tout. I encourage you to read my comprehensive plan at www.stollingsforwestvirginia.com.

If the coronavirus has made one thing abundantly clear, we need everyone working together to move our state forward — Democrats and Republicans. I’ve learned this lesson well during my decades of leadership roles in health, economic development and education, including serving on the Higher Education Policy Commission, the University System Board of Trustees and as chairman of the Corridor G Regional Economic Development Authority.

As I travel around the state in my classic Trailways bus, I have found that each region of West Virginia offers a unique role in our state’s recovery.

There is a booming tourism industry in Southern West Virginia with amazing outdoor activities. The I-79 technology corridor from Clarksburg to Morgantown is growing, and the research at West Virginia University is incredible. The Northern Panhandle’s revival is making it a great place to live and work. There is tremendous growth in the Eastern Panhandle and the opportunities and challenges that creates. And the Kanawha Valley’s government and manufacturing sectors stand out.

There is much to celebrate and much to learn about each other. The rest of the state can learn from each region, if we will only communicate and pledge to work together.

My greatest strength is my ability to bring people together to solve problems.

As your governor, I will bring together our diverse regions and the people who live there, as never before, to grow our economy, strengthen our health care system and support our educators and schools. I believe that all three — health care, economic development and education — are entwined.

One of my first tasks will be to expand broadband internet services. Not just talk about it, but do it. I will have a director of broadband services located in the Governor’s Office. We can’t grow our economy, provide online services to our schools or expand telehealth without it.

I will work with the Legislature to support and enhance the Birth to Three Program for families in our state. The first 1,000 days of a child’s life are critical to his/her success.

Funding is available for the substance use crisis, including federal and settlement money, that should be used for the vast array of issues caused by drugs and other substances.

We must diversify our economy by expanding our manufacturing base for what I believe will be a new resurgence of American-made products. I also want to invest in and attract entrepreneurs and small businesses. Many of them are hurting from the effects of the coronavirus, and they deserve our support and encouragement.

As the primary election campaign winds down, there is a clear choice among the Democratic Party candidates: There’s only one candidate who has a proven record of success and has the experience to lead West Virginia out of the coronavirus and opioid epidemics. I respectfully ask for your vote for governor of West Virginia.

Ron Stollings, D-Boone, is a Madison physician and state senator who is running to be the Democratic Party’s

gubernatorial nominee.

Funerals for Monday, July 6, 2020

Cogar, Ina - 1 p.m., Dodd & Reed Funeral Home, Webster Springs.

Hickman, Donna - 10 a.m., Hodam Cemetery, near Spencer.

Hilton, Delores - 11 a.m., Second Baptist Church, Ravenswood.

Huffman, William - 1 p.m., Hafer Funeral Home, Elkview.

Wood, Lori - 2 p.m., Casto Funeral Home, Ravenswood.

Workman, Charles - 1 p.m., Morgantown First Christian Church Disciples of Christ.