I am a reporter at the Baltimore Sun covering Baltimore County courts and crime. Previously, I was a state government and politics reporter for The Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette. I enjoy reporting on public health issues such as substance abuse, mental health services and Medicaid. I am especially interested in how public policies impact vulnerable populations and how politics affect health policy in general.


<p>Last month, the West Virginia Board of Pharmacy signed on to a national project that will let states share data. So far, nine states have joined the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy InterConnect project, including two states that border West Virginia -- Ohio and Virginia.</p>

<p>When I set out to produce my fellowship series on prescription drug abuse in West Virginia, I already knew some grim statistics.&nbsp;Residents here are more likely than those of any other state to die of a prescription overdose. Because of high rates of chronic disease and occupational injuries, people in West Virginia also fill more prescriptions per capita than anywhere else.</p>

<p>Administrators of a hot line that helps West Virginians find treatment for prescription drug abuse are worried the program will be forced to close. The Mountain State has the nation's highest rate of fatal drug overdoses, and most of those deaths involve prescription drugs. But officials with the <a href="http://www.wvrxabuse.org/&quot; target="_blank">West Virginia Prescription Drug Abuse Quitline</a> say state leaders have not shown concern for their funding problems. The hot line launched in September 2008 with the help of $1 million from a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, maker of the painkiller OxyContin. That money will run out next year, said Laura Lander, the program's clinical supervisor.</p><p>&nbsp;</p>

<p>On a tie vote, state senators on Thursday rejected a proposal to require a prescription for cold and allergy medicines containing pseudoephedrine.</p>

<p>The nation's drug-policy chief says West Virginia can fight its prescription drug abuse epidemic by combining good police work with a focus on the prevention and treatment of substance abuse.</p>