As part of his ongoing efforts to address a troubling rise in heroin and opioid abuse in Virginia, Attorney General Mark R. Herring, along with the attorneys general of 36 states plus the District of Columbia, has written to leaders in the U.S. House and Senate Judiciary Committees urging passage of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2015 (S. 524/HR 953).
“Addiction is a treatable disease but many folks who need treatment the most aren’t able to get it,” said Attorney General Mark Herring. “My hope is that this Act will provide Virginia with additional tools to fight and prevent heroin addiction so that more Virginians don’t lose loved ones to this epidemic.”
Attorney General Herring announced a multifacted five point plan to combat heroin and prescription drug abuse in September of 2014 that emphasizes prevention and education along with law enforcement partnerships, prosecutions, and accountability for doctors and pharmacists that make opioids illegally available. Last week he announced that Virginia joined a first-of-its kind task force that fosters cross-state collaboration and leverages resources to combat heroin distribution and the associated rise in heroin overdose fatalities.
The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act would provide states with the necessary tools to more effectively confront the growing challenge of heroin and opioid abuse and addiction.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drug overdoses now surpass automobile accidents as the leading cause of injury-related death for Americans between the ages of 25 and 64. More than 100 Americans die as a result of overdose in this country every day – more than half of them caused by prescription drugs or heroin. In Virginia, 478 people died of heroin and prescription drug overdoses in 2014 alone.
In the letters, the attorneys general write, “Law enforcement has always been on the frontline when it comes to drug crises, but we cannot arrest ourselves out of this current epidemic. Research shows the best way to address this challenge is though a strategy that includes prevention, law enforcement, reduction of overdose deaths, evidence-based treatment, and support for those in, or seeking, recovery.”
The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2015 will:
- Expand prevention and educational efforts – particularly aimed at teens, parents and other caretakers, and aging populations – to prevent the abuse of opioids and heroin and to promote treatment and recovery.
- Expand the availability of naloxone to law enforcement agencies and other first responders to help in the reversal of overdoses to save lives.
- Expand resources to identify and treat incarcerated individuals suffering from addiction disorders promptly by collaborating with criminal justice stakeholders and by providing evidence-based treatment.
- Expand disposal sites for unwanted prescription medications to keep them out of the hands of children and adolescents.
- Launch and evidence-based opioids and heroin treatment and intervention program to assist in treatment and recovery throughout the country.
- Strengthen prescription drug monitoring programs to help states monitor and track prescription drug diversion and to help at-risk individuals access services.
A copy of the letter sent to the Senate and House Committees on the Judiciary can be downloaded here: http://ag.virginia.gov/files/CARA_Support_Letter_2015.pdf