Va. pilot program aims to slash heroin, prescription drug overdoses

Posted at 10:34 AM, Mar 11, 2014
and last updated 2014-03-11 14:01:35-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)  --  U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is calling the abuse of prescription drugs and heroin an "urgent public health crisis."

To fight the problem, he's calling on law enforcement agencies and emergency responders to train and equip their men and women with the medication Naloxone that's been proven to save people from dying due to an overdose.

That's something already underway in Virginia.

Henrico delegate John O'Bannon agrees with the Attorney General.  In the 2013 Virginia General Assembly session he sponsored HB 1672.  It allows a family member or friend to get a prescription for Naloxone to counteract the effects of an opiate overdose.

Delegate O'Bannon said two pilot programs, one in NOVA and the other in Central Virginia,  offering Naloxone are nearly set.

Those pilot programs are based on North Carolina’s Project Lazarus.

Wilkes County, NC had the sixth highest death rate from heroin overdoses in the nation in 2008.  That dropped 69 percent over the next three years after offering the counter-overdosing drug Naloxone to family members of known addicts.

Seventeen states, including Virginia, offer Naloxone to the public, but Holder says he'd like more to do the same.  In a video posted on the Justice Department’s website, Holder said heroin and other opiate addiction too often has deadly results.

“Right now, few substances are more lethal than prescription opiates and heroin”, said Holder.  “Addiction to heroin and other opiates - including certain prescription pain-killers - is impacting the lives of Americans in every state, in every region, and from every background and walk of life.”

Part of HB 1672 requires the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services to evaluate those Virginia pilot programs about to get underway.

Delegate O'Bannon anticipates more of the state’s public safety officers; police and sheriff's deputies; will be receive training in how to administer an intra-nasal version of the drug.