NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — For Lisa Reed, these past two years have been tough.
In January 2021, her daughter, Kaitlyn Hall, died of fentanyl poisoning at just 23 years old.
“I’m mad as hell,” Reed said. “She got a bad something. This is a horrible position for any parent to be in.”
Reed said her daughter, a young mother, had been self-medicating for depression.
“They will miss out on so much from their mother,” she said. “Just the love of their mom, and the attention and the affection that she showed them, being able to share things through the years.”
Since Kaitlyn’s death, Reed has joined other mothers from Hampton Roads in sharing their stories to spark change and new laws.
Wednesday, she shared her reaction to recently passed legislation from this past General Assembly session aimed at cracking down on illegal fentanyl.
According to the Office of the Virginia Attorney General, Jason Miyares, HB 1682/SB 1188 amends the terrorism statute to add all forms of fentanyl as a weapon of terrorism, and the knowing and intentional manufacture and distribution of fentanyl as a Class 4 felony.
According to Virginia law, penalties related to a Class 4 felony range from 2-10 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.
“Oftentimes what we see, particularly with teenagers, they often don't realize what they're taking is fentanyl. They think it's something else,” Miyares said. “A lot of these drug cartels are able to just simply, if they have a chemistry set, they don't need a lot of land. They can manufacture this at a mind-boggling rate.”
Miyares said he has been keeping tabs on what he calls a "crisis" in the Commonwealth and released the following statement about the passing of the recent legislation:
“Over the last few years, Virginia has seen a devastating increase in fatal drug overdoses, with over three-quarters caused by illicit fentanyl. After sending a letter to President Biden in September requesting that fentanyl be designated as a Weapon of Mass Destruction (WMD), my team began drafting this legislation to specifically target manufacturers and distributors in Virginia. In order to fight back against this epidemic, Virginia’s adjusting its response to treat it with the seriousness that it deserves. That’s why Virginia will be declaring fentanyl a weapon of terrorism. I look forward to Governor Youngkin signing this legislation into law.”
For Reed, she believes the legislation is a start.
She also hopes more can be done to hold people pushing fentanyl accountable.
“We’re not going to stand by,” Reed said. “Like my bumper sticker says, locking up a drug dealer is not going to save my child, but it can save yours. That’s what this is about. Saving the future.”
A spokesperson for Gov. Glenn Youngkin said he is supportive of the stronger measures against fentanyl and will be signing the measure into law in the coming weeks.
Wednesday, conversations about the dangers of fentanyl weren’t just in Virginia, but also in Washington, D.C., with U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland giving testimony during a Senate hearing.
“I’ve personally met with the families of children, teenagers, young adults, and the elderly who’ve taken these pills, often thinking that they’re taking Adderall, oxycodone, or Percocet, a prescription drug, but when in fact it’s filled with fentanyl,” Garland said during the hearing. “The cartels that are creating these pills, and that are distributing them within the United States, are the most horrid individuals you can imagine.”
Garland also said during the hearing that cartels have been advertising on social media as if they are prescription pills.
If you or someone you know is facing either mental or substance use disorders, you can call the 24/7 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).