Stollings: ‘Now is the time for (governor) with healthcare background’
MADISON — Gubernatorial candidate Ron Stollings (D) believes his 14 years in the West Virginia Senate combined with his experience as a physician make him the right choice for governor in 2020.
“Right now is the time when you need someone with a health care background and is well respected so we can get things done,” Stollings said. “I’ve never seen this more critical as I do at this time with the opioid and substance abuse disorder, hospitals around West Virginia closing, medical costs and now the coronavirus pandemic.”
He added, “We’ll be moving away from a fee-for-service model to a different type of payment system. With all of that, West Virginia needs someone with an extensive background in health-related policy who cares about patients and people in general.”
Stollings, 64, said that in relation to COVID-19, he feels that West Virginia’s reaction could have been more swift and comprehensive.
“The two most glaring issues are the lack of protective equipment and the lack of testing options,” he said. “It is my understanding that this is federally based so I’m not sure what the state of West Virginia could have done. We could have socially distanced sooner, we could have shut down quicker, we could have sheltered in place or issued a stay-at-home order. I think we had more of a reactive plan than a proactive plan. One thing that I find most interesting is that people are knocking on the doors of West Virginia when there is a disaster.”
Stollings has been active on social media, answering questions and engaging with citizens regarding coronavirus. As a geriatric physician, his patients have many concerns with the current landscape.
“As I’ve said in Facebook Live, you have to assume that everybody you see has the virus, and if you assume that, it will direct your behavior accordingly,” he said. “I saw 12 patients today through audio consultations, and they are very concerned.”
Stollings said the pandemic has presented challenges that he hopes West Virginia and the country can learn from.
“We should bring back our manufacturing of key materials to America,” he said. “We must bring back our medication supply to America. Everybody wants to be self-sufficient. What does it take to be self-sufficient? We need to manufacture ventilators here and have a stockpile to draw from. We need to learn from this crazy pandemic that caught our country off-guard. In turn, we can improve our economy by manufacturing these items right here in West Virginia.”
Stollings spoke about the importance of a strong, educated, drug-free workforce to be able to support manufacturing jobs.
“We have one of the best business tax climates in the country, and we need to promote this,” he said. “We have to get back to the basics, help our children with adverse childhood experiences so that they can be free to learn and grow. There is a short-term fix to all of these issues. We have to rehabilitate our people and get our arms around this thing so we can get them back into the workforce.”
Stollings said it needs to be an all-hands-on-deck approach for West Virginia.
“We have to also support our small businesses, our entrepreneurs and develop our tourism opportunities,” Stollings said. “Our rivers, flatwater paddling and our streams are some of our most wonderful assets. I’ve already been out on the water this year.”
The West Virginia Senator said the state has made progress regarding the drug epidemic, but there is still work to be done, particularly in rehabilitating our addicted population.
“We did what we could do at the time and went after the prescription drugs and we did it fairly recklessly and we did that to the point that we didn’t have any recovery. While we wrote less prescriptions for pain medication, we saw a rise in heroin overdoses. Additionally, people who have a legitimate need for pain medication are struggling. I have worked to protect the ability to prescribe pain medicine for people with a legitimate need.”
Stollings noted that West Virginia boasts varying degrees of economic success with select regions of the state expressing different needs.
“The eastern panhandle doesn’t want growth and they want to slow it down,” he said. “Southern West Virginia lost the primary industry (coal) that carried us for so long. Then you have (Governor Jim) Justice saying the coal mines would come back and we’d have a road built up to Hobet (Rock Creek Development Park) that never gets done and promises aren’t kept a lot of the times.”
Stollings noted that for elected officials at all levels, the time is now to work together for the betterment of West Virginia’s future.
“I’m a bipartisan guy and it means I’ll be working across the aisle,” he said. “We need to repair and expand our economy beyond the coronavirus. There is going to be a huge investment in each state to get us back on our feet. I’d have the governor’s office looking at grants and partnerships. You have to use that money to help small business and entrepreneurs. Big business can survive. We provide big tax breaks for big business and we need that for our small businesses as well. These out-of-the-country businesses that manufacture items that are so important to us during a pandemic, we need them here. We need them manufactured here. Some people think of our rare earth elements is a pie in the sky but must take advantage of our resources. If we can extract them from the same area our coal came from and we can’t send it off somewhere else to be manufactured. We need to do this right here and take advantage of those added jobs to our economy.”
Stollings added, “For the past 14 years I have been involved with some type of tax reform. Our business tax climate is about 17th best in the country. It takes people coming together instead of one party dominating the process and pushing bills through where there are clear winners and losers. The problem that is identified regarding locating a company here in WV is (lack of) an educated, drug-free workforce and shovel-ready sites. I fought against the repeal of the business and inventory as it would have caused at least $100 million deficit in our budget in the upcoming years primarily impacting our counties and cities and school systems.”
Stollings spoke about the education reform bill passed in 2019.
“In order to obtain the ‘wrap around’ services that we found to be necessary, we must have a workforce,” he said. “We should focus on career tracks that will produce nurses, social workers and counselors. Many of these wrap around functions can be done by school based health clinics and Federally Qualified Health Centers that are already providing these type services and are being reimbursed by Medicaid and CHIP, which has a federal 3:1 or 9:1 match. The legislation can help in the long run.”
The senator remains an advocate for expanding broadband internet in West Virginia.
“Middle and last mile focus,” he said. “Future roads and other utilities should have conduit for future utilities. Cooperate with business and schools and health systems that require internet to function. The federal government will be pushing out millions of dollars to recover from the coronavirus and some of these monies should be used for this type of infrastructure. Require providers to cooperate and share towers and rural infrastructure.”
The Boone County resident said he doesn’t support the recent weakening of the EPA’s water and air regulations.
“I would not support weakening our air and water standards,” he said. “West Virginia is blessed with many rivers and we have learned that we must protect them for our future. Many people are using our rivers for recreation, tourism and physical fitness. I see many people now kayaking and fishing. We all remember the water crisis about four years ago. I remember our air being much more dirty than it is now due to many efforts.”
Stollings will face Douglas Hughes, Jody Murphy, Ben Salango and Stephen Smith in the Democratic primary in May.
The physician has received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine at Marshall University, the Award of Distinction from the Marshall University Alumni Association, the 2012 Distinguished Community Health Champion Award from the West Virginia Primary Care Association and the Inaugural Oral Health Champion Award from the West Virginia Oral Health Coalition.
Previously, Stollings has served as a member of the University System Board of Trustees and as a member of the Higher Education Policy Commission. He served as Chairman of the Corridor G Regional Economic Development Authority Board of Directors and is a member of the Boy Scouts of America Buckskin Council’s development committee. He is a member and former president of the Madison Rotary Club.
Stollings has a daughter (Whitney) and a grandson (Seth).
Ron Stollings: Health care, education, economy keys to future (Opinion)
I was raised by a single mother. She struggled with cancer for five years and died when I was 17. The people of my hometown of Madison supported me throughout my mother’s illness and after she passed away. They provided me with jobs and scholarships to help pay for my college education and medical school.
They asked me for one thing in return — that I come back to my hometown to practice medicine for three years. I’ve never left.
During high school, I mowed lawns, painted houses and worked at Handley Funeral Home. During college summers, I worked in the coal mines.
I went to college at West Virginia University, medical school at Marshall University and completed my residency in internal medicine at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine. I returned to my hometown to care for the community that embraced and supported me as a teenager.
I have served as a primary care doctor for 34 years and as a state senator for 13 years. I’ve witnessed the daily struggles of West Virginians. I’ve been on the front lines during the substance-use crisis and I see how it is affecting our health, education system and our economy.
Businesses are finding it difficult to hire quality, drug-free employees.
Our family unit has been shattered as many of our children have lost one or both of their parents. They are being raised by grandparents or other family members.
Many children face obstacles (living conditions, hunger, etc.) before they even show up for school.
Our health care and recovery system and first responders have been pushed to the limit because we don’t have the resources to handle the large numbers of people seeking help.
I worry about so many children in our state. We have 10,000 homeless children, 7,000 foster children and 300 children who are missing.
We need to invest in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life, as we know that’s critical in their future ability to learn.
Next, we need to invest in education and value our educators. Not only do educators and school service personnel teach our children, but, in many cases, they make sure these children are not hungry and that they have a caring adult in their life. What happens between 3 p.m. and 7 a.m. is critical to a student’s ability to learn. Studies show having a certified teacher in the classroom, smaller class sizes and parental involvement will help improve education outcomes.
We need to make sure West Virginians have access to quality, affordable health care, including oral health and mental health care.
As I travel the state, I am struck by the different challenges and opportunities that each region faces. I consistently hear employers say they need qualified, reliable, drug-free employees. I understand that not only do we need a statewide strategy for economic growth but we need different, regional strategies for economic development.
We must continue to explore and capitalize on the incredible opportunities in technology to grow West Virginia’s knowledge sector and digital economy. We must continue to invest in infrastructure, including broadband.
In addition, research is critically important to diversifying our economy. One area of research that is showing great promise is “rare earth elements.” Electric car motors, iPhones, military jet engines, batteries and satellites all require rare-earth elements to function. West Virginia has enormous deposits of these elements throughout our state. We can establish manufacturing facilities here and create good-paying jobs in a new and expanding industry.
We need to keep our young people and recruit others with good-paying jobs and a great quality of life. I’ve established an advisory group of talented young individuals to offer innovative ideas on how to diversify our state and make it an attractive place to stay or to relocate.
Our best days are ahead of us. We can and must come together as a state, but I can’t do it without each of you. I invite you to learn more about my campaign for governor at www.StollingsforWestVirginia.com and on Facebook at Stollings for West Virginia.
It’s time for new leadership. One based on better ideas and not one based on a bigger pocketbook.
For Immediate Release
September 23, 2019
STATE SENATOR AND PRIMARY CARE PHYSICIAN RON STOLLINGS TO SEEK DEMOCRATIC NOMINATION FOR GOVERNOR
Charleston, WV –West Virginia State Senator Ron Stollings today announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for Governor.
“Over my 34 years as a physician, I’ve witnessed the daily struggles of West Virginians. I’ve been on the front lines during the opioid crisis and I see how it is affecting our state.”
“West Virginia is one of the richest energy states in the country, our scenery and outdoor activities are unparalleled, and our people are ready for good paying jobs that will stay in our state,” said Dr. Stollings. “But, we must get a handle on the opioid and substance abuse crisis if we are going to move forward as a state.”
Dr. Stollings said he would establish the Governor’s Office of Substance Abuse to coordinate state efforts to manage the opioid and substance abuse situation. He says the efforts need to be organized and managed from one location.
“How do we know how much we should receive in settlement dollars if we don’t know how much prevention and treatment programs will cost? This should be an effort coordinated by the Governor, in the Governor’s Office.”
Dr. Stollings says the state’s substance abuse problem affects all areas of the population. He says it touches:
- Businesses in finding quality, drug-free employees;
- Our family unit as many of our children are without at least one parent and are being raised by grandparents or other family members;
- Our education system as many of these children face obstacles before they even show up for school; and
- It burdens our healthcare and recovery system, our police and emergency services because we don’t have the resources to handle the large numbers of people seeking help.
“All the paved roads in the world won’t bring new businesses to our state if we don’t have reliable, drug-free workers,” he said.
Dr. Stollings says, in addition to the opioid crisis, his campaign will focus on:
- Ensuring access to affordable, quality healthcare for all West Virginians;
- Investing in our teachers and education system; and
- Expanding the economy by better taking advantage of our rich natural resources and investing in infrastructure, including broadband.
Dr. Stollings says he would reinstate all of the funding to health departments that the legislature took away two years ago. “Health departments need all the help they can get as they deal with substance abuse problems, Hepatitis and HIV outbreaks, and a myriad of adverse childhood experiences.”
Dr. Stollings filed his pre-candidacy papers with the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office.
“The opioid crisis is tearing apart our communities, but it’s not the only problem: our neighbors are struggling to pay for their prescription drugs, hospitals are being squeezed financially, and basic healthcare services are in jeopardy in communities around the state.”
“West Virginia is one of the richest energy states in the country and yet we act like we are the poorest. As a boom or bust state, we need to better manage and take advantage of the rich resources we have been given. We have the resources to expand our economy, invest in infrastructure, including broadband, and, yes, roads.
“More and more, your zip code determines if you will be successful in life and we need to change that and give students in all areas of our state the opportunity to be successful. We need to ensure that every child has a safe place to live and a caring adult in their life, especially for the many homeless children who go through our school system. We need to support grandparents raising their grandchildren.”
Ron Stollings was born on April 24, 1955, in Madison, West Virginia, the son of the late Alma Stollings. He received his undergraduate degree from West Virginia University and his medical degree from Marshall University School of Medicine. He completed his medical residency at Wake Forest University before returning to his hometown to start his medical career. He was first elected to the West Virginia Senate in 2006 representing Boone County. In the legislature, he has served, among other positions, as both the chairman and vice-chairman of the Committee on Health and Human Resources. He has also served on the University System Board of Trustees, Higher Education Policy Commission, and the Corridor G Regional Development Authority. He is the past president of the West Virginia Medical Association and past president of the Madison Rotary Club.
Website: www.StollingsforWest Virginia.com