Governor Terry McAuliffe today signed Executive Order 29 establishing the Governor’s Task Force on Prescription Drug and Heroin Abuse. The task force will recommend immediate steps to address a growing and dangerous epidemic of prescription opioid and heroin abuse in the Commonwealth. The order asks the task force to suggest strategies that will raise public awareness about the dangers of misuse and abuse of prescription drugs, train health care providers on best practices for pain management, identify treatment options and alternatives to incarceration for people with addiction, and promote the safe storage and disposal of prescription drugs. The task force will also seek to expand use of the rescue drug, naloxone, which has been shown to prevent death from overdose, and leverage the Prescription Monitoring Program to reduce abuse of prescription drugs. Overall, through these efforts, the task force will seek a measurable reduction in deaths from prescription drug and heroin abuse.
“Prescription painkiller and heroin abuse is a nationwide problem, and is spreading rapidly across the Commonwealth,” said Governor McAuliffe. “We must take immediate action in Virginia, or these terrible trends will continue to ravage our families, our businesses and our economy. As part of my plan, A Healthy Virginia, I am creating this statewide task force so we can identify and implement strategies that will prevent drug abuse and help people with addiction get the treatment they need to recover. I am confident that by working together to address this growing problem we will be able to make our communities safer, save lives, and put us on a pathway toward building a new Virginia economy.”
Governor McAuliffe was joined by Senator Tim Kaine at the announcement, who noted: “I am grateful to Governor McAuliffe for forming a task force to address the prescription drug and heroin abuse epidemic that is threatening the health and safety of our communities. This summer, I witnessed firsthand the impact of addiction and the importance of recovery as I spoke with Virginians across the Commonwealth, including at a drug court graduation in Salem and a Project REVIVE training session in Lebanon. I’m proud to see Virginia taking innovative approaches to combat this crisis and I am committed to being a partner at the federal level.”
The Task Force will be co-chaired by Dr. Bill Hazel, Secretary of Health and Human Resources, and Brian Moran, Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security, and will be composed of representatives from the Office of the Attorney General, the legislature, and the judiciary, as well as relevant state and local agencies, law enforcement, health professionals, community advocates, and individuals with personal experience with addiction.
“We recognize that we cannot simply arrest our way out of the serious opioid and heroin problem we face,” stated Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran. “Using a collaborative approach that addresses public health and public safety, we can save lives, reduce crime and target scarce law enforcement resources on dealers and traffickers”
Secretary of Health and Human Resources Bill Hazel added: “Health care providers have been effectively engaged in the effort to discourage misuse of prescription opioids. The rise of heroin abuse should not discourage us, but inspire us to work harder, in coordination with our partners to prevent heroin addiction and overdose death. The work we began last year to reduce prescription drug abuse offers a sound foundation for our future efforts.”
The full text of Executive Order 29 is below.
NUMBER TWENTY NINE (2014)
ESTABLISHING THE GOVERNOR’S TASK FORCE ON
PRESCRIPTION DRUG AND HEROIN ABUSE
Nationally, prescription drug and heroin abuse has reached epidemic proportions. Since 2000, deaths from prescription drug overdoses in Virginia have more than doubled, while deaths from heroin overdoses have doubled in the past two years. Though prescription drugs are generally safe when used as prescribed, the misuse and abuse of prescription painkillers (opioids) can lead to addiction, and even death. In addition, individuals that are addicted to opioids are shifting to heroin, as prescription drugs become less available.
Prescription opioid and heroin abuse has also led to an increased burden on law enforcement and elevated health care costs from drug-related emergency department visits and treatment admissions. While the numbers of Virginians requiring treatment for addiction to drugs are substantial, resources for treating those who are addicted are limited. It is vital to the Commonwealth’s interests to take immediate steps to reverse this dangerous trend of abuse. Therefore, I am directing relevant state and local agencies, health and behavioral health care professionals and organizations, law enforcement, and other stakeholders to work together toward reducing prescription opioid and heroin addiction, curtailing related criminal activity, and enhancing the health, safety, and well-being of all Virginians.
Establishment of the Task Force
Accordingly, by virtue of the authority vested in me as Governor under Article V of the Constitution of Virginia and under the laws of the Commonwealth, including, but not limited to §§ 2.2-134 and 2.2-135 of the Code of Virginia, and subject to my continuing and ultimate authority and responsibility to act in such matters, I hereby establish the Governor’s Task Force on Prescription Drug and Heroin Abuse (“Task Force”).
The Task Force will serve in an advisory role, in accordance with § 2.2-2100 of the Code of Virginia, and will be responsible for recommending short-term and long-term measures that can be taken to tackle prescription drug and heroin abuse and addiction, using best practices and evidence-based strategies.
Composition of the Task Force
The Secretary of Health and Human Resources and Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security will serve as Co-Chairs. The Task Force will be composed of representatives from the Office of the Attorney General, legislature, and judiciary, as well as relevant state and local agencies, law enforcement, health and behavioral health care professionals, providers, community advocates, and individuals with personal experience, as appointed by the Governor. The Governor may appoint any other person(s) deemed necessary and proper to carry out the assigned functions.
The Task Force will offer recommendations to meet the Commonwealth’s objectives listed under the following five major areas: 1) education, 2) treatment, 3) data and monitoring, 4) drug storage and disposal, and 5) enforcement.
The Task Force will also recommend specific metrics to be used to track progress in each of these five areas, and will suggest a target for each area with a date by which the goals should be met.
Overall, the Task Force will seek measures for the reduction in deaths from prescription drug and heroin abuse within 5 years.
Staff support for the Task Force will be furnished by the Office of the Secretary of Health and Human Resources and the Office of the Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security, and such other agencies and offices as designated by the Governor. The Task Force will meet upon the call of the Chair at least four times per year. The Task Force will provide initial recommendations to the Governor on or before December 31, 2014, a comprehensive implementation plan by June 30, 2015, and any additional reports as necessary.
This Executive Order shall be effective upon its signing and, pursuant to §§ 2.2-134 and 2.2-135 of the Code of Virginia, shall remain in full force and effect for a year from its signing or until superseded or rescinded.
Given under my hand and under the Seal of the Commonwealth of Virginia this 26th day of September, 2014.
Terence R. McAuliffe, Governor
Levar M. Stoney, Secretary of the Commonwealth