CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — It wasn’t long ago that Dr. Rahul Gupta, West Virginia’s former health officer, took the witness stand in the first federal opioid legislation trial that’s underway in Charleston.
In his ten years as health officer for the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department and then as the state health officer, Dr. Gupta was at what many consider “ground zero” for the opioid epidemic.
As the news spread of President Joe Biden nominating Dr, Gupta to the director of the highest office in the country for addressing the drug epidemic Tuesday, his West Virginia colleagues all praised him.
“We are absolutely overjoyed that Dr. Gupta is being nominated for this really important position,” said Dr. Clay Marsh, West Virginia’s COVID-19 Czar.
Marsh also added that having a friend and former West Virginian in the Office of National Drug Control Policy could be helpful to the state.
“Gupta is well-positioned, he has a lot of experience in public health, in state medical associations,” said Sen. Ron Stollings (D-Boone).
In a statement, Sen. Tom Takubo (R-Kanawha) wrote: “Dr. Gupta is truly a bipartisan, nonpolitical person, whose interests are pure. If he’s able to accomplish even a fraction of what he did for West Virginia in his new federal role, the United States will really be headed in a positive direction with handling the opioid epidemic.”
Still, while Dr. Marsh and others say having a friend and former West Virginian in the office could benefit the state, others also say it’s time to have a full-time drug czar in West Virginia to continue his efforts.
“I hope the Governor will also take this opportunity to put someone in the official capacity, cabinet-level position as the drug czar for West Virginia, I think that would be critically important right now,” said Stollings.
“It doesn’t matter who’s at the top if there’s no infrastructure downstream,” he said.