Overdose deaths in Alexandria down, but treatment program at capacity

WASHINGTON — Heroin and prescription drug related deaths are down in Alexandria, Virginia, and the use of naloxone to reverse the effects of opioid overdoses is up.

That’s what Kate Garvey, director of the city’s Community and Human Services Department, told the city council this week.

Overdose deaths in the city dropped from 16 in 2007 to 4 in 2014, according to the medical examiner.

EMS data show naloxone, which is also known by the brand name Narcan, was used 121 times this year compared to 85 times last year.

Meanwhile, the city’s opioid treatment program is at capacity.

“We’re able to serve 105 people at any given time, and we’re there now,” Garvey said.

State funding was used to hire an additional registered nurse and a security guard for the program.

The city formed an opioid work group that began meeting in September 2015.

The group includes representatives from the police and sheriff’s departments, fire and EMS, Inova Alexandria Hospital and the health department — and it has led to changes, Garvey said.

When a suspected overdose happens, Alexandria police now send detectives, not just patrol officers, to jump-start the investigation.

And since young people often start down the path of addiction by raiding their parents’ medicine cabinet, the number of drug takeback events in the city has been doubled to four.

“There were 1,000 pounds of drugs brought back in 2016,” said Garvey.

Last week, Virginia declared opioid addiction a public health emergency.

The state’s move also means anyone in the state can now buy Narcan without a prescription.

The commonwealth is expected to record a 77 percent increase in opioid overdose deaths this year, compared to five years ago.

Michelle Basch

Michelle Basch is a reporter turned morning anchor at WTOP News.

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