Revive RVA regional summit to explore solutions to heroin, opioid epidemic

Richmond, Henrico, Chesterfield, Hanover unite for Oct. 26 event

The city of Richmond and the counties of Henrico, Chesterfield and Hanover will present a free summit Thursday, Oct. 26 to examine and identify solutions to the alarming rise of heroin and opioid abuse in central Virginia.

The community event — titled Revive RVA: Regional Solutions to the Opioid Crisis — will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Greater Richmond Convention Center, 403 N. Third St. in downtown Richmond. The summit is open to the public, but registration is required. To sign up, go to https://regionalopioidsummit2017.sched.com/  by Thursday, Oct. 12.

Revive RVA will feature keynote addresses by Dr. Robert L. DuPont, president of the nonprofit Institute for Behavior and Health, and Dr. A. Omar Abubaker, professor and chairman of the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery in the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry.

DuPont, a longtime leader in drug abuse prevention and treatment, served as the first director of the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Drug Abuse, from 1973 to 1978, and was the second White House drug chief, from 1973 to 1977. Abubaker, an oral surgeon, has spoken extensively about the heroin and opioid crisis after his 21-year-old son, Adam, died following an overdose in 2014.

The summit will continue with breakout sessions examining the issue from different perspectives: medical community and prescribers; addiction treatment; emergency medical services; law enforcement; state policy; and youth and schools. The program will conclude with a panel discussion led by individuals in recovery and an open dialogue on ways to address the problem. An exhibit featuring more than 15 community service providers and agencies will take place throughout the day.

In addition, the summit will offer free training from 3 to 4:30 p.m. on how to administer naloxone following an actual or suspected overdose of heroin or opioids. Naloxone, which is available in Virginia without a prescription, can temporarily reverse the drugs’ toxic effects, allowing time to seek professional medical attention.

The training, developed by the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, is intended for family and friends of someone who is at risk of an overdose. The class provides hands-on instruction on the administration of naloxone’s nasal form and is restricted to individuals age 18 and older. Because spaces are limited, registration is encouraged as soon as possible. To sign up, go to surveymonkey.com/r/ZZC6V6X. Participants will leave the session with a complimentary dose of naloxone.

Revive RVA comes as the region’s localities and public school systems are taking steps to address the public-safety threat posed by heroin and opioids. The potent, highly addictive drugs, which include prescription painkillers such as OxyContin and Vicodin, are threatening all communities and segments of society. Virginia State Health Commissioner Marissa J. Levine designated opioid addiction a public health emergency in 2016.

The number of fatal opioid overdoses continues to rise sharply locally, across Virginia and throughout the United States. In Richmond, Henrico, Chesterfield and Hanover, the combined number of opioid overdose deaths increased from 51 in 2010 to 79 in 2012 before jumping to 108 in 2014 and 189 in 2016, according to the Virginia Department of Health.