Why some Virginia state lawmakers are getting trained to administer NARCAN

Posted at 5:04 PM, Feb 26, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-26 17:04:34-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- While lawmakers have been considering legislation this General Assembly session meant to address the fentanyl crisis in the Commonwealth, they also got some instruction Monday on how to address in a more hands-on manner.

State Sen. Todd Pillion (R - Abingdon) hosted a REVIVE! training session along with staff from the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services to teach lawmakers and staff how to administer naloxone, the medicine that can counteract the effects of an opioid overdose.

"It's important that all of us know the mechanism of action and how to how to use this and administer it in case someone is having an overdose," said Pillion, who challenged all 40 state senators to get trained before the 100 members of the House of Delegates.

Virginia First Lady Suzanne Youngkin was also in attendance. She spoke about how opioids, especially illicit fentanyl, have been the driving factor behind fatal drug overdoses becoming the leading cause of unnatural death in Virginia since 2013.

"On average, five Virginians a day are dying of fentanyl. And we lost 1,500, over 1,500 Virginians just last year. Two hundred of those were our youth," said Youngkin.

Among the bills submitted this session related to fentanyl are ones aimed at addressing the problems in schools including Del. Kelly Convirs-Fowler's legislation for age-appropriate education.

"About what the risks, what fentanyl -- what opioids are, what they do. And that way we can get ahead of it and really get a grasp on these kids and knowledge is power," Del. Convirs-Fowler (D - Virginia Beach) said.

Pillion has legislation for school divisions to come up with overdose prevention plans and education.

"Just because we as legislators, recognize the importance of Naloxone and recognize how severe the fentanyl crisis is in the Commonwealth," he added.

Pillion also has legislation related to another drug mentioned during training that's been getting national attention. While naloxone can reverse an opioid overdose -- it doesn't work on several other drugs including one called xylazine or "Tranq", which is supposed to use as a sedative for large animals.

Federal agencies have been posting alerts about the dangers of "Tranq" in recent years and it has been deemed an emerging threat.

Pillion said while there is federal legislation being considered -- his bill would make xylazine a Schedule III drug and carries penalties for its illegal consumption or its sale and manufacture, while still allowing for its legal use for veterinary purposes.

"It's so important, not only on the state level, we're seeing federal legislation working through Congress to make sure that we head off this problem before it becomes a crisis," said Pillion.

If you would like to learn how to use the REVIVE! kits, DBHDS hosts these training events around the state and you can find more information here.

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