Forum to discuss opioid addiction, abuse

Published 3:49 pm Thursday, November 9, 2017

Cumberland County Commonwealth’s Attorney Pat Scales is hosting a forum Tuesday at 6 p.m. regarding the opioid epidemic in hopes of sharing information and possible solutions with the community. According to a press release, the topic of the forum will be “The Need-to-Knows of the Opioid Crisis,” and it will take place at Cumberland County High School’s Luther P. Jackson Adult Education Learning Center.

“It’s important for all citizens to know the warning signs of opioid abuse and how to avoid developing a problem with prescription painkillers,” Scales said in the release. “I’m hosting this summit because I feel compelled to do what I can to be a part of the solution.”

According to the release, late last year, Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared the opioid addiction crisis in Virginia a public health emergency, and recently, the federal government made a similar declaration for the entire nation.

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“Opioids include illegal drugs such as heroin as well as prescription pain medications such as morphine, codeine, methadone, oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl and suboxone,” officials said in the release.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, opioid overdoses can occur when a patient misunderstands the directions for use, accidentally takes an extra dose, deliberately misuses a prescription opioid or an illicit drug such as heroin or takes opioid medications prescribed for someone else.

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) reports that it has noticed a shift in the causes of overdose deaths. In its Opioid Overdose Data Quarterly Report for the Fourth Quarter of 2016, the VDH reported that prescription opioids had historically led to the largest number of overdose deaths; however, in 2015 illegal opioids such as heroin became the leading cause of fatal overdoses.
“In light of the opioid problem that the state and nation are facing, I’m delighted that Crossroads has agreed to join with me in this forum,” Scales said. “And this means we’ll have a counselor there to give real-life advice about treatment or counseling services that may be available and what individuals struggling with addiction, or their friends or family members, can do to get help. Crossroads Executive Director Susan Baker was very helpful and happy that her agency could assist in the forum.”

A representative from the VDH in Richmond and Cumberland County Sheriff Darrell Hodges will also participate.

“In the judicial system, we encounter many people who are caught in the opioid quagmire, and sometimes their addictions spiral downward, leading to arrests for crimes such as forgery, fraud, larceny and burglaries,” Scales said. “The opioid problem definitely impacts the court system, and I’d like to believe that this forum will encourage people to get the services they need before they end up in court.”

Hodges said the opioid crisis is a problem nationwide.

“Of course, Cumberland is not exempt,” Hodges said. “We do have issues; we haven’t had the problems that other jurisdictions have had, but I think we’re trying to get ahead of it instead of trying to catch up to it after the fact.”

He said the county has received a grant for Narcan, which is a medication that can reverse the effects of opioids, especially in overdose.

“There’s nothing worse than getting there and not being able to do anything,” Hodges said in regard to showing up to the scene of an opioid overdose. “You’ve got families sitting there, you know, looking at you, and you’re doing your best, and without the proper equipment, we can’t do anything. Hopefully this will help save lives.”