In Virginia, more people die of heroin overdoses than in car crashes – an epidemic area law enforcement and mental health officials want to change.
In Northern Virginia, an effort at change resulted in a widespread regional heroin and opiate bust Wednesday — but with a twist.
Police and sheriff’s deputies from Fairfax, Prince William, Loudoun, Falls Church, Arlington, Alexandria, Herndon, Manassas, Manassas Park, Vienna and Virginia State Police this week obtained 74 arrest warrants for heroin and prescription drug fraud and distribution. They spread out during Wednesday’s storms to make the arrests.
But officers also brought along substance abuse counselors and police chaplains to offer help and spiritual guidance as “Operation Save a Life” got underway.
In Fairfax County, police offered many of those arrested an immediate opportunity to seek addiction treatment. Those who chose help were taken by Fastran bus to the Merrifield Crisis Response Center in Annandale for assessment. Five went into rehabilitation Wednesday night, officials said.
The program, called Diversion First, allows those arrested for simple heroin or opiate possession an opportunity to go into treatment and have their criminal charges dropped upon completion.
“One of our biggest messages today is that recovery is truly possible,” said Lyn Tomlinson, assistant deputy director of the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board. “This operation was a true partnership we’d been planning for some time.”
In Fairfax, 38 people were charged or have warrants for their arrest; in Prince William 21; in Manassas three and in Loudoun 12.
Nick Yacoub, now a peer support specialist and recovery coach, said it was an arrest that finally led him to seek help for his drug addiction back in 2007.
Youcoub, a 30-year-old Great Falls resident, told his story at a Wednesday press conference about Operation Save a Life, saying “addicts aren’t bad people. We’re sick people trying to get well.”
Youcube said his addiction started at just 10 years old with the use of prescription drugs. By the time he was in his early 20s, he had been arrested several times. When he was picked up again in 2007, his probation officer recommended he get an evaluation from the Community Services Board.
“I’ve been clean and sober ever since,” he said. “Help is out there.”
Tomlinson said heroin-related deaths in Northern Virginia have been on the rise in the last few years. In Fairfax County, there were 14 fatal overdoses in 2014 and six last year. In 2014, heroin and opiate overdose deaths outpaced fatal car accidents across the state – a statistic that will likely be true again for last year, officials said.
And in Loudoun County on Wednesday night, there was another, said Sheriff Mike Chapman.
In addition to finding, arresting and offering help to drug users, area officials are also reaching out to friends and loved ones, offering opiate overdose training and resources for the life-saving drug Naloxone.
A statewide program, called Revive!, teaches anyone interested how to administer the opioid antagonist, which is the only way to stop an overdose.
Click here for more information on free training seminars.
Click here to see original article written by InsideNova.