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RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today issued Executive Order Forty-Four, extending the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Opioids and Addiction for an additional year. First established by the Governor in September 2018, the 27-person Advisory Commission is a multidisciplinary group from across the Commonwealth appointed by Governor Northam.
Since 2013, drug overdoses have been the leading cause of unnatural death in the Commonwealth. Nearly 1,500 individuals in Virginia died as a result of drug overdoses just last year and over 80 percent of those fatalities involved prescription opioid painkillers, heroin, or synthetic opioids like fentanyl. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner reported a rise in the number of fatal drug overdoses in the first quarter of 2019, with 395 fatal overdoses.
“We have taken substantive steps forward to address the growing opioid and addiction epidemic in our Commonwealth, but the reality is that this remains a public health emergency that continues to have devastating impacts to people and families across Virginia,” said Governor Northam. “The extension of this Commission will ensure that we keep up our efforts to combat this crisis from every angle, and I am grateful to this group for their dedication to the important work of saving lives.”
Public Safety and Health and Human Resources secretariats work in tandem to support communities affected by the opioid and addiction epidemic. Virginia’s Medicaid agency was recently awarded a $5 million federal planning grant to increase access to evidence-based treatment for opioid addiction and other substance use disorders. The planning grant awarded to the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS) will provide targeted resources to address treatment needs for pregnant women and individuals who have recently been released from the criminal justice system.
“We have worked hard to build a comprehensive network of treatment services across the Commonwealth, but we know that gaps remain,” said Secretary of Health and Human Resources Daniel Carey, M.D. “This grant will help us identify racial, economic, and geographic barriers to care and to develop the strategies necessary to eliminate those disparities.”
Governor Northam recently announced an expansion of Virginia’s Framework for Addiction Analysis and Community Transformation (FAACT), a data-sharing platform designed to help the Commonwealth fight the opioid crisis. The continuation and expansion of this initiative is funded through a federal State Opioid Response (SOR) grant from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
The Department of Corrections has also taken a leadership role in fighting the opioid crisis by implementing Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) pilot programs in three re-entry locations and its Community Corrections Alternative Program. This program includes counseling and wrap-around services in partnership with the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) and DMAS, and targets three areas of the state with the highest rates of opioid overdose among state-responsible offenders.
“We have known for a long time that we cannot arrest our way out of the opioid and addiction crisis,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran. “This Commission offers an opportunity for our public safety agencies to continue working closely and intentionally with health agencies to address drug fatalities and implement innovative solutions to the epidemic.”
Secretaries Carey and Moran also co-Chair the Governor’s Executive Leadership Team on Opioids and Addiction. The state-level working group of executive branch agencies has outlined a five-pronged approach to ending the overdose epidemic in Virginia: abuse prevention, harm reduction, supply prevention, treatment and recovery, and justice interventions. The Advisory Commission will continue to review these efforts and provide suggestions and direction on various initiatives.
The full text of Executive Order Forty-Four can be found here.
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