Virginia’s First Lady pushes for fentanyl awareness, tougher penalties
RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Outside the statehouse Tuesday, Virginia’s First Lady stepped out of the shadows for a political mission that’s turned personal.
“It takes two tiny little pieces of fentanyl, the size of salt, to kill someone,” said Suzanne Youngkin
Youngkin is pushing for a statewide fentanyl awareness campaign and tougher penalties to help the commonwealth’s battle with fentanyl. She and families met with state lawmakers.
“It’s critical that we do this so people understand the lethal dangers of fentanyl and how many lives are being taken daily by it,” said Jill Cichowicz, who lost her brother to fentanyl.
Last year almost 15,000 people overdosed in Virginia and about 2,600 died. The state says fentanyl was responsible for 76% of those deaths.
Burnic Sprouse’s fiancée, Brooke, died one year ago due to an overdose.
“I think we have to focus on recovery as a whole and what that looks like for each individual and then also holding people accountable who are out here selling fentanyl,” said Sprouse.
In September 2020, Greyson Mazich died from an overdose while at college. A family friend of the Youngkin’s, the First Lady reflected on his life cut short along with the many others.
“It’s not my comfort zone but we have very raw feelings about this. I have to be honest. I have friends standing here with me today and I knew their loved one, same age as our children, beautiful, vibrant young man that had no intention of killing himself,” said FYoungkin.
In the Virginia General Assembly, at least two bills are still being debated. HB1455 would allow prosecutors to charge dealers with first-degree murder for an overdose death. SB1188 would classify fentanyl as a weapon of terrorism.
In 2019, a bill to stiffen penalties made it to then-Gov. Ralph Northam’s desk, but he vetoed it.
“It has devastated our family. It has left a hole that nothing can fill and things will never be the same again,” said Denise Thomas-Brown, who lost two nephews to fentanyl.
The state’s secretary of health and human resources says five Virginians will die today from fentanyl poisoning.
Copyright 2023 WWBT. All rights reserved.