McAuliffe establishes Governor’s Task Force on Prescription Drug and Heroin Abuse
The task force will recommend immediate steps to address a growing and dangerous epidemic of prescription opioid and heroin abuse in the Commonwealth. The order asks the task force to suggest strategies that will raise public awareness about the dangers of misuse and abuse of prescription drugs, train health care providers on best practices for pain management, identify treatment options and alternatives to incarceration for people with addiction, and promote the safe storage and disposal of prescription drugs.
The task force will also seek to expand use of the rescue drug, naloxone, which has been shown to prevent death from overdose, and leverage the Prescription Monitoring Program to reduce abuse of prescription drugs. Overall, through these efforts, the task force will seek a measurable reduction in deaths from prescription drug and heroin abuse.
“Prescription painkiller and heroin abuse is a nationwide problem, and is spreading rapidly across the Commonwealth,” said Governor McAuliffe. “We must take immediate action in Virginia, or these terrible trends will continue to ravage our families, our businesses and our economy. As part of my plan, A Healthy Virginia, I am creating this statewide task force so we can identify and implement strategies that will prevent drug abuse and help people with addiction get the treatment they need to recover. I am confident that by working together to address this growing problem we will be able to make our communities safer, save lives, and put us on a pathway toward building a new Virginia economy.”
Governor McAuliffe was joined by Senator Tim Kaine at the announcement, who noted: “I am grateful to Governor McAuliffe for forming a task force to address the prescription drug and heroin abuse epidemic that is threatening the health and safety of our communities. This summer, I witnessed firsthand the impact of addiction and the importance of recovery as I spoke with Virginians across the Commonwealth, including at a drug court graduation in Salem and a Project REVIVE training session in Lebanon. I’m proud to see Virginia taking innovative approaches to combat this crisis and I am committed to being a partner at the federal level.”
The Task Force will be co-chaired by Dr. Bill Hazel, Secretary of Health and Human Resources, and Brian Moran, Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security, and will be composed of representatives from the Office of the Attorney General, the legislature, and the judiciary, as well as relevant state and local agencies, law enforcement, health professionals, community advocates, and individuals with personal experience with addiction.
“We recognize that we cannot simply arrest our way out of the serious opioid and heroin problem we face,”stated Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran. “Using a collaborative approach that addresses public health and public safety, we can save lives, reduce crime and target scarce law enforcement resources on dealers and traffickers”
Secretary of Health and Human Resources Bill Hazel added: “Health care providers have been effectively engaged in the effort to discourage misuse of prescription opioids. The rise of heroin abuse should not discourage us, but inspire us to work harder, in coordination with our partners to prevent heroin addiction and overdose death. The work we began last year to reduce prescription drug abuse offers a sound foundation for our future efforts.”