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Virginia Executive Order 26 launches comprehensive strategy to fight fentanyl

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May 9, 2023 was officially recognized as National Fentanyl Awareness Day in Virginia.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed Executive Order 26 and a series of events were held to fight the fentanyl and opioid crisis, which is plaquing not only the Commonwealth, but states and communities across the United States. The crisis is a national security concern and a public health emergency.

Executive Order 26, effective immediately, directs the launch of a new comprehensive fentanyl-fighting strategy across public safety, prevention, education and treatment in the Commonwealth. Structural changes are included to better position Virginia’s government to fight the epidemic.

The executive order comes along with the governor’s Right Help, Right Now plan to transform behavioral health, including a critical goal to reduce opioid overdoses by 20 percent.

“Fentanyl poisoning has devastated families and communities across Virginia. We cannot stand by as Virginians lose their lives when there are steps we can take to combat this deadly fentanyl poisoning crisis. We must act,” Youngkin said. “I am confident that together these measures are significant steps to reduce the occurrence of fentanyl overdoses and deaths in the Commonwealth.”

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid with approximately 30 times more potency than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. According to the DEA, Fentanyl remains the deadliest drug threat facing this country. Nearly 94 percent of all fatal opioid deaths in Virginia in 2020 were unintentional. In 2021, fentanyl caused or contributed to over 76 percent of all opioid overdose deaths in Virginia. Over the last three years, more Virginians passed away from fatal drug overdoses than motor vehicle and gun-related deaths combined. Drug overdose is the leading cause of unnatural death in Virginia.

During Fentanyl Awareness Day yesterday Youngkin highlighted REVIVE! training, which will prepare Virginians on how to recognize and respond to an opioid overdose emergency with naloxone. Naloxone is a prescription medicine capable of reversing opioid overdoses by temporarily blocking the effects until first responders arrive. About 60 REVIVE! trainings and events were held on May 9 across the Commonwealth.

“Fentanyl is poisoning Virginians and Americans, and losses have become far too familiar,” First Lady S. Suzanne Youngkin said yesterday. “Last year, thousands of Virginians lost their lives to fentanyl poisoning, and Glenn and I have grieved with personal friends over the loss of loved ones. Every single Virginian has a role to play in the important work to curb the opioid crisis that is impacting our Commonwealth. Through a comprehensive strategy that focuses on the needs of our most vulnerable, we aim to find solutions and destigmatize conversations as well as spread awareness about life-saving naloxone mist.”

According to Secretary of Health and Human Resources John E. Littel, an average of five Virginians die every day from fentanyl overdoses.

“I am grateful Governor Youngkin for launching a comprehensive strategy that supports education and prevention, expands treatment and enhances interdiction and to the First Lady for her outreach to the families affected by overdose and her work to educate young people and their parents,” Littel said.

Among the events held yesterday was REVIVE! training for students at Stafford High School in Fredericksburg attended by Gov. Youngkin and First Lady Youngkin. Afterward, the governor signed Executive Order 26 and eight other bills to strengthen the Commonwealth’s efforts to combat fentanyl and opioids.

The governor and First Lady held a listening session with Virginia mothers who have lost family members to fentanyl.

At Germanna Community College in Fredericksburg, Secretary of Education Aimee Guidera joined 80 students, faculty and staff for REVIVE! training.

Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs Craig Crenshaw and First Lady Youngkin participated in REVIVE! training at the Virginia War Memorial in Richmond.

Chairman of Virginia’s Opioid Abatement Authority Sen. Todd Pillion participated in training in Bristol.

The governor ordered flags flown at half mast on May 9 on all state and local buildings and grounds in the Commonwealth in memory of individuals lost to fentanyl poisoning and for the strength of their families.

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.