Health

Va. Governor Signs Bills to Counter Heroin Overdoses

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has signed legislation to help combat the state’s ongoing heroin epidemic.

With the opioid epidemic appearing to only get worse — particularly among heroin users — McAuliffe confirmed in a statement this week that opioid abuse continues to kill Virginians. Opioids include drugs such as oxycodone and fentanyl, and it’s believed heroin, rather than prescription drugs, is being used because it’s cheaper.

“We recognize that addiction is a disease, not a moral failing, and our proposals for this General Assembly session focused on preventing addiction and providing treatment for those who suffer from it,” the governor said.

One of the four bills McAuliffe signed into law allows community organizations to possess and dispense naloxone — medication used to treat drug overdoses in emergency situations — to individuals trained to use it. Another mandates all opioid prescriptions to be transmitted to pharmacies electronically by 2020.

According to the latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four drug overdoses in 2015 was linked to heroin, compared to 1999 when the number of overdoses leveled at six percent.

Meanwhile, the situation in the D.C. region — where drug overdose death increased 31 percent from 2014 to 2015 — remains a cause for concern, with law enforcement officials reporting in January that heroin trafficking had contributed to an uptick in arrests.

In Maryland, officials reported deaths from fentanyl-laced heroin doubled in the first six months of 2016, compared to the same period in 2015. Virginia health officials estimate that more than 1,000 people died from opioid overdoses in 2016.

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