Council considers ways to target substance abuse in Commonwealth

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WAVY) — The Substance Abuse Services Council met in Henrico County Thursday to discuss what the Commonwealth is doing about addiction and treatment.

The group is made up of people from state agencies, senators, delegates and representatives of provider agencies and advocacy organizations

Mellie Randall is Substance Use Disorder Policy Director at Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services. She said alcohol is still the most prevalent drug of abuse in the state and country, but opioids are gaining speed.

“Almost every single person knows somebody who is affected by addiction,” she said. “Opioids kill people very, very quickly, so that’s why it’s gotten so much attention.”

Back in March, the council picked a theme for focus. They settled on the impact of opioids on families and communities.

Last year, 1,133 people died from opioid overdose in the Commonwealth, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

The group heard a presentation about the Governor’s Executive Leadership Team on Opioid Abuse and Addiction.

All six of its legislative initiatives passed into law this year. They covered issues like how we dispense naloxone to how we deal with babies exposed to controlled substances.

The team’s goals for next year are setting up the next administration for success and focusing on local resources and collaboration.

Members of the Substance Abuse Services Council then brainstormed recommendations to deliver to the governor and General Assembly.

“When you get a group like this together, you get a lot of different people coming at it from different perspectives, having different ideas,” said Sen. George Barker (D-Alexandria). “That’s where you come up with a whole host of options that can all help the problem.”

Some of the council’s discussions focused on funding for things like substance abuse prevention and drug court. They also talked about addressing the shortage of medical professionals and suggested additional resources for young adults with addictions.

A formal list of recommendations will be finalized and passed on to lawmakers.