Virginia Governor Fights Multi-Front War on Fentanyl

( – As overdose deaths from the synthetic opiate painkiller fentanyl have grown by an order of magnitude in Virginia since 2013, Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin wants a broad-spectrum response to the crisis.

Recognizing the new “National Fentanyl Awareness Day” on May 9th, Youngkin signed an order mandating state agencies to take 10 different steps to fight the problem. Among those is finding a way to monitor the amount of fentanyl in a community by screening the wastewater for the drug. 

Since 2013, fentanyl overdose deaths have increased by 20 times in Virginia. Youngkin’s executive order states that overdose deaths are higher than all the deaths in the state from car accidents and gun crimes combined.

Under Youngkin’s order, the Virginia Department of Health must put together a plan within 120 days to use drug-detection surveillance to figure out how much fentanyl is circulating in specific areas. 

The order also directs the state’s Department of Social Services to develop “wrap-around” treatments and services for families who are caring for children after their parents have died from drug overdoses. 

At the May 9th event marking Fentanyl Awareness Day, Youngkin pointed to a program called REVIVE! that he wants residents to make use of. The training teaches people how to recognize when a person is overdosed on a narcotic or opiate drug and on how to use the drug Naloxone to reverse the overdose. Naloxone blocks and reverses the acute effects of opiates, giving time for medical emergency workers to arrive and administer treatment. 

Youngkin also wants public safety officials, including the Virginia State Police, to develop plans to address the fentanyl problem in regions of the state with unusually high overdose deaths. 

On the same day Youngkin attended the awareness event, he signed a number of bills into law, one of which reclassifies fentanyl as a “weapon of terrorism” in the state. It is not clear what specific effect that designation might have. 

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