Virginia has been plagued by a growing and worsening heroin and opiate epidemic. Among recent overdose-related deaths in the state of Virginia was a woman who happened to be the mother of one of Rick Ridpath’s students. Rick is a teacher at Colonial Heights Middle School, and this incident made him realize that it was about time the Tri-Cities community got properly educated about the epidemic.
The young student whose mother died was merely 11 years old at that time and so Rick decided that some action had to be taken. So, he sent emails to several city officials, such as Diane Yates, the Vice Mayor of Colonial Heights; William Brey, the Commonwealth’s Attorney; and Dr. Joseph Cox, the superintendent of Colonial Heights Public Schools. The email sent to them urges them to talk about this problem.
As a result of the email, a opiate summit was held within the Colonial Heights High School’s auditorium. Many residents attended and it got quite crowded in there. The panel include experts like local law enforcement officials, all of whom spoke about the heroin and opioid epidemic that has affected the entire state of Virginia, including the Tri-Cities area. , John Piotrowski, the Colonial Heights Councilman, was hopeful that the summit would help make the community understand the the epidemic “is a real problem.”
It was also noted that even though the epidemic has also significantly affected, cities like Akron and South Florida, the situation in Virginia has been drastically worsening. When compared to 2015, the opioid-related death toll in the state has risen to 809 this year. By the time 2016 comes to end, it is being speculated that 1000 or more people will have died from drug overdoses.
At the summit, Rick Ridpath recalled the incident of his young student’s mother’s overdose-related death that had prompted him to send the email in the first place. He admitted that he is merely a teacher, yet he felt it was his responsibility to educate and inform people. A short video was also played at the summit by Shannon Freeman from the Attorney General's office. It was about the overdose-related death of another female heroin addict who had a young daughter.
All of the above was followed by a panel discussion. Some powerful drugs were mentioned during the discussion since they are responsible for increasing the dangers of certain forms of heroin. When compared to morphine, the prescription opioid painkiller fentanyl is 100 times more potent and addicts have been mixing it with heroin. The rise in fatal overdoses is partly because of such dangerous drug concoctions.
The Heroin Addict Recovery Program (HARP) set up by the Chesterfield County was also mentioned during the summit. The program aims to provide assistance to incarcerated addicts by connecting them with various helpful resources upon their release. The panelists highlighted the fact that the resources are out there, the addicts addicts simply need to realize this and should be willing to seek assistance.
Ultimately, everyone hoped that the summit would educate people about the heroin and opioid epidemic, provide them with awareness and the useful resources that can come in handy to combat this drug problem.