Virginia AG Determined to Tackle Opiate Addiction Problem

By Victoria Kim 09/10/14

With overdoses skyrocketing in the Commonwealth, Mark Herring wants more accountability from dealers and doctors.

heroin addict needle.jpg

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring announced a plan to tackle heroin and prescription drug abuse during an address to the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police on Monday. Herring’s plan calls for better prevention efforts and more effective prosecutions.

According to the Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, more than 800 Virginians died from drug overdoses in 2012. The number of fatal heroin overdoses nearly doubled between 2011 and 2013.

“People really need to understand that the nature of this problem has changed,” Chief Howard Hall of the Roanoke County Police Department told WDBJ7. “The typical heroin user has changed. It’s affecting young people, it’s affecting people at every level of our society.”

Herring’s plan includes working with law enforcement and prosecutors to create a Good Samaritan policy, which would provide “limited immunity” from prosecution for minor offenses for those who witness an overdose. Similar policies have been enacted in 17 states and the District of Columbia. Fear of prosecution often deters people, who are often addicts themselves, from calling for help in the event of an overdose.

The attorney general also wants more accountability, from heroin dealers to medical professionals. According to Herring, current laws in Virginia make it difficult to prosecute dealers whose drugs lead to an overdose. He promised that his office will “aggressively” take action against medical professionals including doctors, pharmacists, and pharmacy technicians, who make it easier for Virginians to obtain prescription drugs.

Improving prevention by way of better education and training is also a large part of Herring’s plan. Law enforcement will be provided with new training materials on how to properly handle an overdose situation.

Last but not least, the attorney general’s office will examine the state’s Naloxone pilot project and decide whether to expand it in Virginia. Naloxone is a medication that reverses opiate drug overdose, temporarily blocking the opiate effects and allowing a person to breathe again long enough for help to arrive. Police departments across the country have equipped officers with the drug.

State law enforcement leaders, prosecutors, and health professionals will gather on October 2 in Charlottesville for a day long summit to discuss strategies on tackling this problem.

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr