EDVA Observes Overdose Awareness Week
(STL.News) This week the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia (EDVA) recognized Overdose Awareness Week and renewed its commitment to addressing the nation’s overdose epidemic.
“Over 107,000 people died of a drug overdose in the United States last year. That is more than twice the number of people who were killed by firearms,” said U.S. Attorney Jessica D. Aber. “In Virginia, more people died of a drug overdose than by firearm and car accidents combined. We must raise awareness of what is killing our loved ones at such an alarming rate.”
Overdose Awareness Week, observed from August 29 through September 3, is a time to remember those tragically lost to overdose and the pain of the families who are left behind. On Wednesday, the flags around Virginia flew at half-staff in recognition of the lives lost to overdose. This week is also an opportunity to recommit to working together to build safe, healthy, and resilient communities. By adopting evidence-based approaches to reducing overdose risks and lowering barriers to treatment and support, we can save more American lives.
According to the CDC, in 2021 there was a 15 percent rise in the rate of overdose deaths in the United States. The death rate for 2022 is on track to be even higher. Opioids were responsible for almost 75 percent of the overdose deaths in 2020 – and the primary driver of those deaths was illicit fentanyl, the synthetic opioid most commonly found in counterfeit pills bought on the street.
According to the CDC, across the U.S., law enforcement has seized everything from fake blue 30mg Oxycodone pills, to fake Adderall and Xanax pills which contain illicitly made fentanyl. Recently, law enforcement have begun seizing multicolored pills that look like candy made with illicit fentanyl. Within Virginia, a recent trend of cocaine laced with fentanyl has caused a number of overdoses. Overdose deaths within the state from methamphetamine are also on the rise. Law enforcement seizures in and around the district have included what appear to be Ecstasy pills made with high-purity methamphetamine.
In addition to prosecuting offenders who distributed illicit substances, EDVA leads a number of on-going programs and efforts to raise awareness and find solutions to the overdose pandemic, including the Central Virginia Overdose Working Group, Project Recover, and the “Silent No More” awareness program for schools, parents, and community organizations.
The Central Virginia Overdose Working Group (CVOWG) is comprised of over 330 stakeholders from 14 disciplines. It was created to eliminate the siloed structure of the substance use arena by bringing experts from multiple fields together to discuss issues, identify gaps, and develop solutions to the overdose epidemic in Central Virginia.
Project Recover funds Certified Peer Recovery Specialists to support Virginians suffering with substance use disorders during one of the most critical times in their path to recovery – immediately following an overdose. All too often, once EMS and law enforcement have addressed the immediate trauma of an overdose incident and have left the scene to respond to the next call from the community, the victim is left without sustainable treatment and recovery options.
Project Recover’s goal is to help fill this gap by providing individuals in need with immediate support from a peer who has overcome similar challenges and has gained real-world knowledge of the ongoing process of treatment and recovery. Currently, Project Recover funds peers in Richmond City Police Department, Chesterfield County Police Department, Henrico Fire/EMS and Police Department, and Richmond Ambulance Authority.
“Silent No More” is a community-based educational outreach and prevention program. This program is being introduced at schools in the Eastern District of Virginia to educate students and parents about the threat of opioids and other dangerous substances, as well as connecting law enforcement with parents, medical professionals, and educators for life-saving conversations. “Silent No More” is currently available in Central Virginia and in Tidewater and is in the process of developing a program in Northern Virginia.
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