RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed an executive order Tuesday that directs state agencies to take 10 steps intended to bolster the fight against the fentanyl crisis, including setting up a plan to use wastewater surveillance to keep tabs on use of the drug.
Fentanyl overdose deaths in Virginia have grown more than 20-fold since 2013, according to Youngkin's executive order, which also states that since 2020, more Virginians have died from fatal drug overdoses than motor vehicle and gun-related deaths combined.
“We must act," Youngkin said in a statement. “I am confident that together these measures are significant steps to reduce the occurrence of fentanyl overdoses and deaths in the Commonwealth.”
Youngkin's order directs the Virginia Department of Health to develop a “cost-effective plan" within 120 days to use and fund "wastewater surveillance to detect the frequency, potency, and occurrences of fentanyl use in specific locations.” That's a strategy other places around the country have employed, according to news reports.
The order asks that special advisers to the governor on opioid response and opioid interdiction be assigned within 90 days. It also directs the Department of Social Services to develop a plan to offer “wrap-around services and treatments” to those taking care of children whose parents have passed away from a drug overdose.
Youngkin asked state public safety officials and state police to develop a “a strategic plan for law enforcement agencies” for tackling the problem in parts of the state dealing with high numbers of overdose deaths.
He also wants a workgroup established to study how to keep incarcerated people with substance use disorders drug-free after they are released.
Youngkin signed the executive order at a National Fentanyl Awareness Day event at a Fredericksburg high school, spokesperson Macaulay Porter said.