Public Health Emergency Regarding Opioid Epidemic Declared Throughout Virginia

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has declared a public health emergency throughout the state in regards to the opioid epidemic.

A public health emergency is only declared in the event that there is a viable risk to public health. The Governor made this declaration in an attempt to highlight how much opioid abuse is impacting Virginia, and to help bring about positive change and a reduction of cases of this type of abuse in the area.

The Chief Deputy Commissioner for Public Health and Preparedness, Dr. Hughes Melton, states that he is “hopeful that people are going to be willing to learn about the disease,” in response to Governor McAuliffe’s declaration, made during the week of Thanksgiving. The overarching goal would be to not only educate citizens of Virginia and places like Salem, Roanoke, and Cave Spring, but to also provide them with Narcan (a medication used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose), teach them how to properly administer it, and offer them resources regarding where to obtain professional treatment.

Many Virginia natives, like most others throughout the United States, have heard the term “public health emergency” regarding this topic and wondered how they got to a place where an emergency needed to be declared. While many are aware that substance abuse is on the rise, especially the abuse of opioids, it might seem that it is not as pervasive of an issue as it truly is. However, this is entirely incorrect.

In 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declared opioid abuse within the country as an “opioid epidemic.” The word epidemic literally means a widespread occurrence of an infectious disease in a community at a particular time. Sadly, this community was the United States. Since then, more and more individuals have begun abusing opioids, whether it is because they were prescribed them for a chronic pain condition, a surgery, or after a visit to the emergency room, or because they began experimenting with a family member’s supply, or were searching for a way in which to numb emotional pain they were experiencing. Whatever the reason, opioid medications are being prescribed at record rates, being sold on streets in mass quantities, and becoming more and more available to people of all ages. In many cases, users of prescription opioids have turned to the abuse of heroin, which is much easier to obtain, cheaper to purchase, and provides the same effects and prescription opioids. This is why this problem continues to expand.

However, there are many different organizations, groups, companies, etc. that are working to help eradicate this problem once and for all. For example, Virginia’s Attorney General Mark Herring stated that he and his team “worked with a bipartisan coalition to expand Narcan availability because we knew it could save lives and prevent the tragedy and heartbreak that too many Virginia Families already know.”

Additionally, some treatment centers, including Mount Regis specifically, are working to do their part to help end opioid addiction in the area. This treatment center, located in Salem, VA, expanded their admissions and nursing teams during 2016 to help accommodate two-times as many admissions and assessments to keep up with the rise of substance abuse in the area. This same treatment center is also building a new facility that will be ready in April of 2017 that has more beds to house those in need.