RICHMOND, Va. -- Drug overdose deaths have hit a record high across the country. One of these thousands of deaths was a young Richmond woman.
Now her family and a group of lawmakers are hoping her story can save lives.
Summer Barrow's family hopes that by telling her story and the legislation it's attached to, they will be able to save a life.
Barrow died of a drug overdose in January of 2020. Carey Colvin, her mother, said her daughter's addiction began after an Oxycodone prescription from a 2016 car accident.
Summer would turn to heroin when the prescription ran out.
"She told me, you don't care what else you do, you just want more," Colvin said.
Colvin said Barrow was able to get off the drug after about two years but relapsed about a month before her death. Colvin now works to raise awareness of the challenges facing those with addiction and their families.
"When Summer was alive, I asked her, do you mind if I talk about your addiction? And she said, it is your story too mom, so yes," Colvin said.
In the United States, the CDC reported over 105,000 people died from an overdose between October 2020 and 2021, a record high.
Meanwhile, in Virginia, the Virginia Department of Health's Office of the Chief Medical Examiner's most recent quarterly report showed 2,011 Virginians have died of an overdose in 2021 compared to 1,724 in 2020 — a nearly 17% increase.
The report estimates the final number of deaths in 2021 will reach 2,660 when the fourth quarter data is published in April, compared to 2,309 in 2020.
Now, Barrow's name headlines bipartisan legislation in Congress, called "The Summer Barrow Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery Act" to reauthorize more than $900 million in grant money to help address substance abuse issues.
"Named in her honor to represent that for every person, for every number we so frequently talk in statistics, there are names, there are families, there are lives that have been lost," Rep. Abigail Spanberger said, on of the bill's co-sponsors. "Within this piece of legislation, we address 12 different grants. And some of the grants have been created at different points in time. And so, the purpose of this is to ensure that all these grants are reauthorized and that means that funding can then go to them."
Spanberger's office said a variety
• $521 million for SAMHSA Treatment Programs of Regional and National Significance: These grant programs target specific populations or areas of concern. Examples include training physicians in identifying patients in need of substance use disorder treatment, providing residential services to pregnant and postpartum women, and improving access to recovery through peer support counselors.
• $218 million for SAMHSA Prevention Programs of Regional and National Significance: These programs help states identify local prevention priorities and develop strategies to reach targeted populations.
• $106 million to support homeless individuals’ access to substance use disorder and mental health treatment and support transition from homelessness.
• $25 million for states, localities, and tribal governments that have a rapid increase in the use of heroin or other opioids to offer medically assisted treatment and other services.
• $23.5 million to fight underage drinking.
• $10 million for demonstration grants to support states and localities development of coordinated opioid abuse response plans.
• $10 million to develop and implement alternatives to opioids for pain management in hospitals and emergency departments.
• $5 million to expand access to emergency treatment of naloxone by training providers and pharmacists.
• $5 million to states to support pharmacies’ access to overdose medication.
Among those who have benefited from the grants in the past is the McShin Foundation in Richmond which says it goes beyond just drug overdoses.
"The mental health crisis that the COVID pandemic exacerbated as well, as you know like I said, alcoholism has been on a huge uptick," Nathan Mitchell, an outreach director for the foundation, said. "The overdose numbers are are incredibly powerful. And, you know, with fentanyl coming into the system and being every single facet, it seems, of the drug world. We're not getting a complete picture when we only look at that one statistic."
Mitchell said some of the work that the foundation has done in the past with the grants it has received include helping those in jail, providing recovery housing, and offering transportation to get people to and from appointments.
"Life skills classes, helping people to find meaningful work, helping people get back together with their families. We know as people in recovery, that when we invest in recovery, we are in fact, building stronger families, creating safer communities, and, you know, building a healthy citizens all around us," added Mitchell.
Colvin said she is grateful for her daughter's inclusion in the bill and she has one hope for the initiatives it could fund.
"Saving a life. These programs are going to save lives. Somebody else is not going to go through what we went through and Summer would love that," Colvin said.
If you or a loved one needs help addressing mental or substance abuse issues, the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Hotline is 1-(800)-662-4357. Locally, the McShin Foundation can be reached at 804-249-1845.