Loudoun Co. takes ‘proactive’ approach to opioid addiction crisis

ASHBURN, Va. — As heroin and opioid overdose deaths grip the country, Loudoun County has pushed forward in aggressive efforts to fight the crisis, hoping to make a difference.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called opioid overdoses across the nation an “epidemic.” And last year, Loudoun County launched a Heroin Operations Team, a multifaceted effort to prevent such deaths.

“I think a very proactive approach started to bring it down again a little bit last year,” Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman told WTOP Tuesday evening in Ashburn, Virginia. “We’re starting to see it pick up a little bit; we did early in the year and it seems to have leveled off.”

Chapman added, “We’ve had 19 overdose deaths [this year] and 14 of those have been opioid-related.”

As part of Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week, the sheriff was at Briar Woods High School, where students and members of the public watched a screening of the documentary “Chasing the Dragon: The Life of an Opiate Addict,” which was followed by a panel discussion.

The 45-minute film, created by the FBI and DEA, can be viewed for free online.

Chapman says almost all of his deputies now carry naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan, which can reverse an overdose. And deputies have put the drug to use numerous times this year.

“Thirteen times we administered Narcan, and 10 times we actually brought people back to life on that — brought them back to consciousness. So it’s a good thing,” he said.

Heroin and opioid addiction affects people of every age, gender and economic background, and teens often get hooked on prescription opioids taken from their parents’ medicine cabinet before moving on to heroin.

The sheriff hopes young people can get his message: “Don’t start this. Just don’t believe the nonsense that you hear that this is OK or that’s OK. Stay away from it entirely.”

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Michelle Basch

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

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