Richmond – Governor Terry McAuliffe today signed several bills that will help fight the epidemic of opioid abuse and overdose.
“Abuse of opioids continues to kill Virginians,” said Governor McAuliffe. “We recognize that addiction is a disease, not a moral failing, and our proposals for this General Assembly session focused on preventing addiction and providing treatment for those who suffer from it. While our overdose death statistics, sadly, continue to rise, each number represents a family that is suffering. We will use every tool we can get to continue this fight.”
Although final numbers are not yet available, the Virginia Department of Health projects that more than 1,000 people died from fatal opioid overdoses in 2016. If those projections hold, 2016 will have seen a 33 percent increase in the number of fatal opioid overdoses compared to 2015.
“Opioids and prescription drugs are extremely addictive and make recovery very challenging,” said Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam. “We must continue to emphasize addiction prevention. I commend the Governor's administration and General Assembly leaders for working together in a bipartisan manner to expand the state's prevention efforts and to increase access to substance abuse treatment.”
“This is a real ‘all hands on deck’ moment,” said Attorney General Mark Herring. “The heroin and opioid crisis is touching families who never imagined they would confront something like this, and yet now are fighting something that feels so overwhelming. These bills are a big step in the right direction, and I’m really proud that our response recognizes that this is a complex, multifaceted problem that calls for a comprehensive set of solutions.”
“Getting this legislation approved has taken the work of legislators from both parties and many stakeholders,” said Secretary of Health and Human Resources Dr. Bill Hazel. “This work is proof the opioid epidemic is not a partisan issue, but a public health emergency.”
Legislation proposed this session focused on helping people toward recovery, and helping doctors implement better prescribing practices.
Since 2014, when he established the Governor’s Task Force on Prescription Drug and Heroin Abuse, Governor McAuliffe has been committed to finding solutions to the opioid epidemic.
In addition to the legislation, Governor McAuliffe is in the process of reviewing new Board of Medicine regulations on prescribing opioids to treat both acute and chronic pain. Importantly, these new regulations will require that when a person with addiction is prescribed buprenorphine to help assist their recovery, they also get the counseling critical to providing a long-term path to a sober life.
Governor McAuliffe signed the following bills: