Fairfax County pushes for opioid settlement funding amid surge in fentanyl deaths

A bag of fentanyl pills (via DEA/Flickr)

Fairfax County could be getting more money from opioid settlements, funding that local leaders said is desperately needed to stem a growing crisis.

Opioid Task Force Coordinator Ellen Volo spoke to the Board of Supervisors’ Health and Human Services Committee at a meeting last Tuesday (Feb. 28).

“Across the state, there’s been a shocking increase in overdoses in the last couple of years,” Volo said. “We’ve seen an increase across all ages locally as well.”

Opioid overdose deaths in Fairfax County (image via Fairfax County)

Volo said Fairfax County has seen a concerning increase in youth overdoses. Nearly all of them involved fentanyl.

The report to the Board of Supervisors said fatal and non-fatal overdoses for youth trended higher in 2022 compared to previous years.

Opioid overdoses for teens and children ages 19 and younger (via Fairfax County)

The report also indicated that 6 out of every 10 counterfeit prescription pills in a Drug Enforcement Agency test contained a lethal dose.

Volo said Fairfax County’s focus is on expanding substance abuse treatment facilities.

“The big bucket of work has been enhancing and expanding substance abuse treatment for youth,” Volo said. “When you look at the nation, certainly the region as well, there is a scarcity of appropriate treatment options.”

Volo said a regional, multi-pronged approach is needed to build capacity for substance abuse treatment, but Fairfax County has hit some stumbling blocks along the way.

“It’s been difficult to find providers of detox and residential service,” she said. “We’re working to establish partnerships. It’s ideal to have this capacity in the region and in-house.”

For the opioid settlements, Volo said the situation is “very fluid” in terms of how much money is available, but it’s clear that the funds must be used for abatement purposes.

In the near-term, Fairfax County should apply this spring to the Virginia Opioid Abatement Authority to fund detox and treatment services at a regional level, Volo said. The county should also launch a survey to gather local and regional input on substance abuse treatment services and other opioid resource needs.

In the October 2023 to April 2024 time frame, Volo said the county should undergo an internal process to organize requests for funding to opioid-related projects and an Opioid Settlement Executive Committee will vet the proposed projects.

County leaders said the help can’t come soon enough.

“We lost a 17-year-old student in my community last summer,” Franconia District Supervisor Rodney Lusk said. “We’ve heard consistently [there’s a] need for additional treatment service, for inpatient and outpatient services, but the outpatient ones are critical.”

Photo via DEA/Flickr

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