Heroin, opioid use topic of discussion at Fairfax Co. town hall

FAIRFAX, Va. — A town hall meeting Tuesday night about heroin and prescription drug abuse in Fairfax County began with bad news.

“Just yesterday we had another suspected heroin death in the county … a 26-year-old man in Springfield, and a second female in Centreville who’s in critical condition as a result of a suspected overdose,” said Fairfax County Supervisor Pat Herrity, who hosted the meeting at the Fairfax County Government Center.

“We learned just yesterday that a Centreville High School student died as a result of a mix of prescription drugs, opioids and alcohol at a so-called ‘pharm party,'” Herrity said. “The week before, three teenagers were transported to the hospital from a house in Burke for suspected overdoses. They go to three different Fairfax County high schools.”

Last year, the county counted 77 heroin overdoses, 12 of which were deadly.

Between January and March of this year there were 11 overdoses, none fatal.

“It astounds me that we are seeing so much of this every day,” said County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova.

She and other members of the board get emails from first responders about every heroin-related incident in the county.

“We’re here because we’re seeing young people die. We have to stop it,” said Karl Colder, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Washington Division.

Lt. James Cox, of the Fairfax County police, says in his jurisdiction, heroin is mostly smoked and injected.

He wants parents to be on the lookout for signs of heroin use.

“When kids are doing it, they’re actually shooting it in between their fingers and they’re shooting it in between their toes,” Cox said.

Parents should also look for cotton balls, spoons with residue and markings on them, lighters and small, empty baggies.

Cox says many companies now sell containers that look like coffee cans or water bottles, but have hidden compartments inside where drugs can be stashed.

Herrity said drug counselors were taken out of Fairfax County Public Schools a few years ago, and that decision needs to be revisited.

“I think we need to look at actually putting those drug counselors back in our schools,” he said.

Congresswoman Barbara Comstock urged young people to take action if they see other young people struggling with addiction.

“If you had a friend that had cancer and wasn’t going and getting treatment, you’d intervene. So I think you have to think of this in the same way,” she said.

Residents who need help for addiction can visit the county’s Merrifield Center between 9 and 5 on weekdays without an appointment.

Get more information about Fairfax County services on their website.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect a change in the spelling to “pharm.”

Michelle Basch

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

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