Across Fairfax County and Virginia, law enforcement and health care professionals continue to report a shocking 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 and Substance Abuse Task Force
Fairfax County’s Opioid and Substance Abuse (OSA) Task Force recently completed the next iteration of its plan to combat the opioid epidemic. The new plan for FY 2021 and FY 2022 builds off of the successes and lessons learned from working through the initiatives of the first plan, which the Board of Supervisors approved in January 2018.
The OSA Task Force Plan for FY 2021 and FY 2022 was completed before the COVID-19 pandemic, which significantly changed the economic outlook. On April 7, 2020, the County Executive submitted an updated FY 2021 budget proposal and it was adopted by the Board of Supervisors on May 12, 2020. The adopted FY 2021 budget reflects new economic realities, deferring funding that had originally been recommended for FY 2021 for many county priorities, including increased support to fight the opioid epidemic. Though this deferral puts FY 2021 activities in the Plan requiring new funding on hold, the OSA Task Force will continue efforts currently underway and advance initiatives that can be pursued within existing resources.
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, prevention and collaboration.
- Early intervention and treatment.
- Enforcement and criminal justice.
- Data and monitoring.
- Harm reduction.
Progress is being made
Significant achievements include:
- The Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board expanded medication-assisted treatment and has reduced the wait for residential treatment by 50 percent.
- Over 2,800 individuals have received REVIVE training, a free course on how to administer opioid reversal medication, which has also been offered to individuals incarcerated in the Adult Detention Center.
- Drug disposal boxes have been added to 12 pharmacies and all eight Fairfax County Police District stations.
- A public education campaign launched in May 2019 on the life-threatening dangers of drug addiction and how to get help.
- The Fairfax Prevention Coalition was established to empower the community to understand, prevent and reduce substance misuse.
Read about additional accomplishments and ongoing initiatives in the FY 2021- FY 2022 OSA Task Force Plan.