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Roanoke: Virginia First Lady Youngkin launches second phase of fentanyl awareness campaign

opioid crisis
Photo Credit: Robert Wilson

Virginia First Lady Suzanne S. Youngkin hosted an event yesterday at the Williamson Road Branch Library in Roanoke.

Youngkin announced the results of the fentanyl awareness campaign, It Only Takes One, and launched the initiative’s second phase. Youngkin was joined by Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares and representatives from the Virginia Department of Health, Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth and the Office of Health and Human Resources.

Stakeholders from the Roanoke community presented their grassroot efforts to further fentanyl messaging. Presenters included Roanoke City Public Schools, the Partnership for Community Wellness, the Health Department, Roanoke Area Youth Substance Abuse Coalition and the Roanoke City Sheriff’s and Mayor’s Office.

“This campaign is rooted in the belief that saving lives starts with conversations and education,” Youngkin said. “Fentanyl may be a silent killer, but we will not be silent about the dangers.”

Youngkin launched It Only Takes One in January 2024 alongside Miyares and Secretary of Health and Human Resources John Littel to combat the Commonwealth’s growing fentanyl crisis, which kills approximately five Virginians every day. The pilot program focused on spreading awareness about the drug’s deadly effects and painful impact on families throughout Roanoke.

After a six-month pilot, the campaign’s ad content has reached approximately 240,000 Roanoke adults with a teen or child in their lives. Familiarity with fentanyl increased by 12 percent among parents who saw ad content, and they reported being 55 percent more likely to initiate a conversation with their children about the deadly opioid. More than 500 adults signed the It Only Takes One pledge to talk to a teen about fentanyl before summer.

Teens who saw ad content themselves were 32 percent more familiar with fentanyl, 46 percent more aware that a single pill could cause death and 24 percent more likely to know that fentanyl is found in illegal drugs. Perhaps most importantly, they reported a 136 percent increase in conversations with adults about the risks.

“Every life lost to fentanyl is one too many. Through education and awareness about fentanyl and counterfeit drugs, we can all contribute to safeguarding our communities and our youth,” Miyares said. “Roanoke’s progress is promising, and I look forward to the beginning of Phase 2.”

The pilot campaign is part of an ongoing and comprehensive effort to end overdose in the Commonwealth and aid individuals with behavioral health challenges by coming alongside Governor Glenn Youngkin’s Right Help, Right Now Behavioral Health Plan and Executive Order 26. It Only Takes One reaffirms the Commonwealth’s commitment to educating the public about the prevalence and danger of fentanyl and providing resources to those struggling with substance use disorder and other behavioral health challenges.

“I firmly believe that educating Virginians about the dangers of fentanyl and the life-saving resources available to them is the key to lasting change,” Littel said. “We have already measurably shifted the narrative with this campaign – and we’re only just beginning.”

Phase 2 of the program will continue efforts in additional areas across the Commonwealth by hosting awareness events and providing resources for adults.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.