Jobs versus drugs

Published 11:49 am Wednesday, September 7, 2016

My good friend Augie Wallmeyer is publishing a book titled “Extremes of Virginia.”

As it becomes available, I encourage folks to read it. Last Sunday, the Richmond-Times Dispatch ran the first of four columns they intend to run based on the book over the course of four Sunday editions. The name of the book is based on the extreme difference between the golden crescent of Virginia and the outlying rural area.

We know the more rural regions of Virginia have not kept pace with the area known as the Golden Crescent — the area from the suburbs of Washington through the Richmond region and ending in Tidewater. In his book, Wallmeyer focuses his attention on the three parts of the state that are having the toughest challenges: Southwest and Southern Virginia and the Eastern Shore.

Some of the easy takeaways from the first column were that our population is declining while the more prosperous areas and the suburbs around them are growing. The percentage of college graduates located in our region is half that of the state overall and income levels two thirds of the state average.

One interesting note, buried in the data were details about the deaths in Virginia from drug overdoses. Statewide in 2014, the death rate was 6.4 per 100,000 people. The Eastern Shore rate is double that rate at 11.7 and the rate for Southwest Virginia is three times greater at 16.4.  The rate in Southern Virginia, however, is less than one third of the state rate. This rate of 1.8 per 100,000 was a pleasant surprise for our region.

For me, this was a big surprise considering the fact employer after employer tell me of issues they have with finding and keeping employees who are drug free. The difference being that in the state overall, the highly addictive opioids such as heroin, cocaine and meth are more prevalent.

Frank Ruff, a Republican, represents Lunenburg County in the Virginia Senate. His email address is