Localities unite to address opioid crisis, offer hope to those battling addiction
The counties of Chesterfield, Hanover and Henrico and the city of Richmond today launched a website and a yearlong media campaign under the name Opioid Solutions RVA to highlight the dangers of opioid use and to connect those struggling with addiction to information, treatment and resources.
The website — OpioidSolutionsRVA.com — provides a comprehensive, regionally-focused clearinghouse of information about opioids as well as services available for treatment, recovery and prevention. It directs those needing immediate help or recovery support to resources, and it offers practical guidance, for example, on discussing pain-relieving alternatives with a doctor as well as what parents can do if their child is suspected of using drugs.
The website also will highlight special programs and initiatives, such as drug take-back drives and classes on the administration of naloxone, which can be used to revive someone following a suspected opioid overdose. The website is being maintained by the localities and is funded through the Opioid State Targeted Response Grant received by the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services.
“Opioid use and addiction are major problems for the entire RVA region,” said Tyrone E. Nelson, chairman of the Henrico Board of Supervisors. “These powerful drugs are destroying lives and affecting every group and demographic. To reverse these devastating trends, our community must elevate its collective understanding of the crisis and offer hope to those challenged with the disease of addiction.”
A yearlong media campaign for Opioid Solutions RVA is kicking off immediately to raise awareness of the epidemic and to promote OpioidSolutionsRVA.com. The campaign is expected to use a variety of media platforms, including billboards, traditional broadcast and internet radio, social media, television and print. The campaign’s $100,000 cost is being shared by the four localities.
“Our country’s opioid problem has been years in the making, and it won’t be solved overnight,” said Leslie Haley, chair of the Chesterfield Board of Supervisors. “Locally, we are committed to action and long-term success. We want to reach everyone — from teens and preteens to adults, parents and seniors. Opioids threaten everyone because they’re not just street drugs, like heroin. They’re often in our medicine cabinets at home and available from doctors by prescription. One of the goals of Opioid Solutions RVA is to create better-informed patients who participate fully in their health care decisions.”
The campaign’s first public service announcement underscores the addictive and potentially deadly nature of opioids and explains that they are often known by other names, including Codeine, Vicodin, Percocet, painkillers and pills. A second announcement offers hope to those struggling with addiction and encourages them to seek help in their recovery. Additional announcements are planned throughout the campaign.
“RVA cares deeply about its residents and knows their health and happiness are essential to our region’s prosperity and success,” Richmond Mayor Levar M. Stoney said. “By uniting in Opioid Solutions RVA, Chesterfield, Hanover, Henrico and Richmond are harnessing their collective talents and resources to save and repair lives.”
Chesterfield, Hanover, Henrico and Richmond have been working both independently and jointly to address the opioid problem for several years. Opioid addiction was declared a public health emergency in Virginia in 2016.
In October 2017, the localities joined forces to present Revive RVA: Regional Solutions to the Opioid Crisis, a daylong summit at the Greater Richmond Convention Center that featured keynote speakers, breakout sessions, panel discussions, a resource fair and naloxone training. The localities continued their collaboration through a work group that includes staff in the areas of human services, public health and communications.
The number of fatal opioid overdoses continues to rise sharply locally, across Virginia and throughout the United States. In Chesterfield, Hanover, Henrico and Richmond, the combined number of opioid overdose deaths increased from 51 in 2010 to 79 in 2012 before jumping to 108 in 2014, 189 in 2016 and 238 in 2017, according to the Virginia Department of Health.
“Sadly, as our first responders know, opioids now account for more deaths in Virginia than automobile accidents and gun violence,” said W. Canova Peterson, chairman of the Hanover Board of Supervisors. “While many people are fortunate enough to survive an overdose, they’re often burdened with a life-crippling addiction. As a community and a region, we can and must do better. Opioid Solutions RVA represents a bold, collective step to truly make a difference for our community.”