George Mason University is receiving more than $1 million to establish a new opioid addiction treatment and recovery center in Prince William County, school officials recently announced.
The university says its Empowered Communities Partnership Center will help the region’s localities fight the surging opioid addiction and overdose problem, with treatment for high-risk individuals battling substance and opioid abuse disorder, and in particular those who are reentering society after a release from incarceration.
“According to state statistics, clients with substance abuse disorders transitioning from incarceration are up to 129 times more susceptible to overdose in their first two weeks following their release,” Mason’s press release said.
On Jan. 30, Mason announced that the center will receive $1.03 million from the latest federal omnibus bill, thanks to Rep. Jennifer Wexton, whose 10th Congressional District includes parts of western Prince William County and all of Manassas and Manassas Park.
A university spokesperson told InsideNoVa that the center, which will be led by nursing professor Rebecca Sutter, will be located near the Mason and Partners clinic in Manassas Park, which Sutter co-directs. It will work in collaboration with state and local criminal justice and public health agencies, according to a university press release.
“We are building upon our programs to expand our impact,” Sutter said in a statement. “This is a partnership center with the local community guiding its work while acting as a learning laboratory for the next generation of public health strategists.”
Opioid deaths across the state and locally have been surging, with the rise due in large part to the proliferation of fentanyl, an extremely potent and dangerous synthetic opioid that is sometimes mixed into cocaine, heroine and other drugs.
Statewide, overdose deaths from synthetic opioids more than doubled from 2019 to 2021, reaching 2,058 that year, the last for which the Virginia Department of Health has complete data available. The state has seen record overdose death numbers in 2019, 2020 and 2021, when synthetic opioid deaths made up just under 80% of Virginia’s 2,622 fatal overdoses. Manassas had the highest overdose death rate of any Northern Virginia locality in 2021, when 20 people in the city were killed. That year, there were 89 overdose deaths in Prince William County.