Across Fairfax County and Virginia, law enforcement and health care professionals report a dramatically increasing number of deaths due to heroin and opioid overdoses. The statistics are startling:
- There has been a more than tenfold increase in fentanyl overdose deaths in Virginia from 2009 (43 deaths) to 2018 (813 deaths). (Source: Virginia Department of Health Office of the Chief Medical Examiner)
- Virginia EMS workers reported 7,775 uses of naloxone opioid overdose reversal medication in 2018.
- Fatal drug overdose has been the leading method of unnatural death in Virginia since 2013. (Source: Virginia Department of Health Office of the Chief Medical Examiner)
In Fairfax County
- Opioids are the number one cause of unnatural death in Fairfax County. (Source: Fairfax County Health Department)
- There were 83 opioid deaths in Fairfax County in 2018; 70 involved heroin/fentanyl. (Source: Fairfax County Health Department)
- Painkillers are the third most commonly used substance, after alcohol and marijuana, among youth in Fairfax County. More than four percent of 8th, 10th and 12 graders - one in every 22 children - reported non-medical use of painkillers. (Source: 2018 Fairfax County Youth Survey)
- Young people (20-24 years old) were seen in emergency departments for fentanyl/heroin overdoses more often than any other age group. Young adults (25-34 years old) were seen in emergency departments for prescription opioid overdoses more often than any other age group. (Source: Emergency departments)
- In 2018 in Fairfax County, police reporting indicates fentanyl has been found combined with cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, ketamine and synthetic cannabinoids. (Source: Fairfax County Police Department)
- There is no "typical" user of opioids. Overdoses and deaths occur in all age groups, among men and women, and in all areas of the county. (Source: Virginia Department of Health Office of the Chief Medical Examiner)
- The proportion of all overdose deaths that include fentanyl and fentanyl analogs is increasing, and higher in Fairfax than all of Virginia. (Source: Virginia Department of Health Office of the Chief Medical Examiner)
Fairfax County Opioid Task Force
In response to an epidemic of deaths and overdoses due to opioid use, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors adopted a comprehensive strategy to help save lives in our communities.
The Board of Supervisors requested that an Opioid Task Force provide recommendations on how the county should address opioid misuse in our communities. The group presented a detailed plan in January 2018 that outlined a comprehensive series of strategies to address the issue.
Two key goals drive the county initiative:
- Reduce death from opioids through prevention, treatment and harm reduction.
- Use data to describe the problem, target interventions and evaluate effectiveness.
Actions are now underway in five key areas:
- Education and awareness
- Drug storage, disposal and monitoring
- Enforcement and criminal justice
- Data and monitoring
Progress is being made
The Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board expanded medication-assisted treatment and has reduced the wait for residential treatment by 50 percent. REVIVE training, a free course on how to administer opioid reversal medication, has expanded to include additional trainings across the county; nearly 2,500 people have been trained so far. This training has also been offered to individuals incarcerated in the Adult Detention Center to help reduce overdose deaths after release when risk is much higher. Fairfax County has strengthened partnerships with local pharmacies for drug-take back programs, and continued public engagement forums about opioids. A new public education campaign launched in May 2019 on the life-threatening dangers of drug addiction and how to get help.
- Data sharing dashboard.
- Peer-support pilot program for emergency rooms.
- Expanded reach of messaging.