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The Fairfax County Health and Human Services (HHS) System is a network of county agencies and community partners that support the well-being of all who live, work, and play in Fairfax County. Our programs and services create opportunities for individuals and families to be safe, be healthy, and realize their full potential. Learn More About Fairfax County HHS.

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August 9, 2018
      The Office of Strategy Management for Health and Human Services is pleased to announce Sarah White as Fairfax County’s first Opioid Task Force Coordinator. Funds to create the new position were allocated by the Board of Supervisors in the FY 2017 budget in an important effort to coordinate the multi-pronged effort to stem the devastating impact of the ongoing public health crisis across Fairfax County communities. Can you briefly tell us about the Opioid Task Force – who’s involved, what’s being done, what the future might hold? Key goals—short-term and long-term?   The Opioid Task Force has been meeting since July 2017 to create a strategy and resource plan to address the opioid epidemic in Fairfax County. The goals of the task force are to reduce death from opioids through prevention, treatment and harm reduction and to use data to describe the problem, target interventions and evaluate effectiveness. In my new position, I will provide leadership, management and coordination to all aspects of the task force's work and to various countywide opioid initiatives. I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with subject matter experts from multiple county agencies and with dedicated members of the community on addressing this issue.   Are there any new trends related to opioids in our area? What’s different about the opioid crisis for us, as opposed to other areas of the country?   Nationwide, roughly 100 people die each day from opioid or heroin overdose. We are seeing that Fairfax County is not immune to this crisis. Between 2014 and 2016 there were 199 opioid deaths in Fairfax County, which exceeds both motor vehicle deaths (137) and gun deaths (127).  While motor vehicle accident deaths and gun deaths have not changed over the past decade, opioid deaths have risen substantially in Fairfax County in the past three years.   It’s also concerning that we’re seeing Fairfax County youth reported slightly higher than national rates for the use of heroin. In 2016, 15- to 24-year-olds were seen in emergency departments for overdose more than any other age group.   What should the general public know about opioid use disorder? Is there any way to get involved?   There is no typical user of opioids. Overdoses and deaths occur in all age groups and are equally common among men and women and in all areas of the county.  Everyone should know the signs of opioid use and should know what to do if someone they love overdoses. Additionally, more information is available to help link people to how they can help others, dispose of unused medications, sign up for training to administer naloxone (medication to reverse an overdose) or request a speaker. The Heroin/Opioids website is a great place for anyone who wants to be involved to familiarize themselves with what is going on. Tell us about your experience working in behavioral health (or public health or how your experiences helped shape you for this position) and what you hope to bring to this new role?   I have worked for Fairfax County for over 11 years. During that time, I’ve worked in the Office for Women & Domestic and Sexual Violence Services, the Department of Neighborhood and Community Services, the Health Department, and the Department of Family Services. Prior to coming to the county, I worked with low income and homeless individuals at FACETS and Our Daily Bread (now Britepaths). I bring to this position a unique perspective on how different agencies operate and how their resources can be leveraged. I have led many internal and external work teams, and managed many projects ranging from community health improvement to advancing workforce equity. I also come from a long line of very organized women who were known for getting things done in their communities. I’m looking forward to highlighting the great work that is already being done in the community toward addressing the opioid issue and moving the needle on this terrible epidemic.