~ Attorney General Herring and US Attorney Boente launched the Hampton Roads Opioid Working Group in September 2016 ~
Hampton Roads, Va. – The Hampton Roads Opioid Working Group today renewed its commitment to combating the heroin and opioid epidemic and recognized the progress it has made in the Hampton Roads community since it launched one year ago. The working group, which Attorney General Mark R. Herring and United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Dana J. Boente created in September 2016, is made up of federal, state and local law enforcement partners, medical and treatment professionals, peer recovery specialists, educators, fire and rescue personnel, and other local leaders that have developed holistic, community-driven solutions to address the opioid crisis.
Attorney General Herring participated in the Hampton Roads Heroin Working Group’s quarterly meeting in Chesapeake this morning, where medical professionals discussed the intersection of the epidemic and mental health issues. Attorney General Herring addressed the Working Group and praised them for their accomplishments over the last year including:
- Streamlining and strengthening communication on the epidemic between different localities within the region
- Leading the Greater Hampton Roads Public Health Summit in June, which had over 300 participants
- Held a law enforcement-focused meeting at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, a medical-focused meeting at Eastern Virginia Medical School, an outreach/education-focused meeting at the Virginia Beach Administrative Building, and mental health-focused meeting at Chesapeake Medical Center
- Mobilizing to improve medical education related to the opioid crisis for the next generation of providers and ensuring prescription guidelines become more standardized
- Working to incorporate Attorney General Herring’s “Heroin: The Hardest Hit” documentary into all public school systems curricula in Hampton Roads
- Expanding social media presence to share information more effectively within the greater Hampton Roads region
“When I joined with U.S. Attorney Boente to launch the Hampton Roads Heroin Working Group, I knew it would be an effective way for the community to come together and develop holistic solutions to the heroin and opioid crisis that’s affecting every corner of the Commonwealth, especially Hampton Roads,” said Attorney General Herring. “Everyone has a role to play in combating this epidemic, and we can make the most progress when we’re bringing law enforcement, medical professionals, and outreach leaders together to all do their part. I’m proud of the progress this group has made over the past year, and I will continue to support its work in any way I can.”
“DEA is proud to be part of the Hampton Roads Heroin Working Group” said Karl C. Colder, DEA Washington Division Special Agent in Charge. “We are keenly aware of the benefits of the collaborative efforts promoted by this group. These efforts are essential to our continued fight against the heroin and opioid crisis that is plaguing the Hampton Roads community.”
“The FBI and our law enforcement partners are dedicated to protecting the public from destructive enterprises that eat at the heart and soul of our communities. More deadly than drunk drivers or gun violence, the opioid crisis is one of the most devastating threats to the community we have seen in law enforcement,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Martin Culbreth. “While we are laser focused on attacking the supply of these dangerous drugs by targeting the high-level traffickers and criminal organizations most responsible for terrorizing and poisoning our neighborhoods, we understand that law enforcement efforts alone will not prevent more victims. The unique opportunity provided by the Hampton Roads Opioid Working Group has allowed us to collaborate more effectively with our law enforcement partners, as well as to use our public platform to attack the demand side of the problem through education and awareness. The working group will have our continued support and commitment as we work together as a community to end this horrible epidemic.”
Carolyn Weems, a leading member of the Working Group and the mother of a child who died of an overdose, knows all too well how important it is to educate young people about the threats posed by the opioid epidemic.
“I am so pleased that the Virginia Beach School Division has ramped up our health curriculum to specifically include the disease of addiction and the risk of misusing or abusing prescribed opioids,” said Weems.
Weems, along with Working Group member Tina Pullen of the FBI and Virginia Beach City Public Schools Director of Curriculum Dr. Amy Cashwell, will present the program at the Annual Virginia School Board Association’s Convention in November, advocating for other school divisions throughout Virginia to follow suit and add opioid education to their curriculum.
“The goals of the Hampton Roads Opioid Working Group are well-aligned with the mission of Chesapeake Regional Healthcare to work with our affiliated partners in improving the health and well-being of the communities served. We are honored to support the group and participate to the fullest extent possible,” said Reese Jackson, President & CEO of Chesapeake Regional Healthcare, which hosted today’s meeting. “The opioid epidemic has had a devastating impact on our community, including many of our own employees and families. We understand this is a complex problem which requires an all-hands-on-deck approach, sustained commitment and strong partnerships. We fully support the mission and goals of the working group, and we will continue to do so by leveraging our resources and community relationships to improve the care we provide to our patients.”