CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- A local police department is taking action against the fastest growing drug problem in Central Virginia and across the county, opioid abuse through pain relievers such as oxycodone or heroin.
There were more drug overdose fatalities in 2015 then there were traffic fatalities in the state of Virginia, according to the Medical Examiner’s Office.
In Chesterfield County alone, there were 104 prescription opioid overdoses.
The county has seen a 183% increase in opioid overdoses in the first three months on 2016, compared to the same time-frame in 2015.
To take action against this crisis, Wednesday, the organization SAFE or Substance Abuse Free Environment held a special training with the Police Chief Leonard Campanello from Gloucester, Massachusetts.
Chief Campanello outlined his now successful 'angel initiative.' He said the program allows those who are addicted to the drugs to walk into any police department and seek help without fear of being arrested.
The person is paired with an angel, someone from the community who agrees to walk through the entire treatment and recovery Process.
“There's a lot of scientific evidence to say that this is a disease. The crime of possession should not outweigh the ability for police officers to intervene and help with this disease,” said Campanello.
Chesterfield County Police Captain Thomas McCullough said the special training session was very helpful for the department.
“We want to get as much information as we can.... We want to make an informed decision before we take any kind of action," he said. "Hopefully put some type of solution together.... something that works for Chesterfield County.”
One local mom Roz Watkins, who lost her own son to addiction, said she would like to see Chesterfield implement a similar program. She had a message for other parents who are in the dark about how serious this opioid epidemic really is.
“What we didn’t realize was this this is a disease and it wasn’t a behavioral problem. The more we learned, we realized that we were fighting against something very difficult. It’s in all of our communities,” Watkins said.