From March through July of this year, medical emergency departments across the Commonwealth each month have fielded more than 700 visits by Virginia residents for treatment for unintentional opioid/heroin or unspecified substance overdoses. Of those 700 overdose visits, approximately 160 resulted from heroin usage in June and another 150 in July. In the first half of 2016, fatal drug overdoses across the state increased by 35 percent.*
Even grimmer than the statistics are the stories behind each life impacted by an overdose and/or death related to opioid and heroin addictions. As a member agency of Governor McAuliffe’s Task Force on Prescription Drug and Heroin Abuse, the Virginia State Police has taken an active role in coordinating with federal, state and local law enforcement, public health agencies and first responders across the Commonwealth to combat, prevent and investigate opioid and heroin abuse and illegal distribution. Such efforts led to the collaboration of Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s Drug Enforcement Supervisory Special Agent (SSA) C. Scott Wade and Alleghany County Sheriff Kevin W. Hall to collaborate on a video that tells the story of Sheriff Hall’s son, Ryan, and his battle with addiction. “Broken Dreams,” an emotional video testimony of the purposeful struggle to overcome addiction and persevere, is told from the deeply-personal perspectives of both Sheriff Hall and Ryan.
“This isn’t a story, it’s the real life account of what a young man and his family have had to go through in order to get their son and their lives back,” said SAA Wade, coordinator of the Eastern Shore Drug Task Force. “The fact that this is the child of a sheriff may be unique, but his story of addiction, the consequences and his daily struggle with staying drug-free are not. There are thousands across the Commonwealth in the same situation.”
The second video, “No Second Chance,” debuted recently on the Eastern Shore and follows the tragic consequences of a 20-year-old Accomack County woman who died from a heroin overdose in July 2016. Her mother and grandmother share their firsthand struggles to overcome the grief of losing a loved one at such a young age to heroin.
SSA Wade is working to have the videos integrated into opioid/heroin prevention programs across the Commonwealth and shown before audiences of all ages in schools, drug-prevention programs, treatment facilities, and community and civic groups statewide. “We cannot begin soon enough to further spread the message about the severely-addictive nature of opioids and heroin. The impact of opioid and heroin abuse is being felt in every corner of the Commonwealth. This video is designed to initiate discussion among parents and their children, teachers, law enforcement, medical professionals, and communities about what it’s going to take to stop and prevent the overdoses and deaths afflicting and overwhelming so many Virginians.”