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Henrico launches to confront heroin, opioid threat

With help from students at two of its high schools, Henrico County has developed a website to call attention to the dangers of heroin and opioid use and to highlight resources available to individuals in recovery.

The Henrico Heroin Task Force launched to provide a clearinghouse of information about an epidemic that is plaguing Henrico and other communities across Virginia and the United States. Nationally, the number of fatal overdoses from heroin and other opioids — including prescription painkillers such as OxyContin and Vicodin — has now surpassed deaths from automobile accidents, said Leslie Martin Stephen, program manager for Henrico Area Mental Health & Developmental Services.

“Opiate use in our community is rampant,” she said. “This new website puts potentially lifesaving information at your fingertips. We want to help our community, including friends, neighbors, coworkers and loved ones, recover or ‘bounce back’ from addiction or, better yet, avoid it altogether.”

The website provides timely information about addiction, including potential signs of heroin or opioid use, as well as treatment options, local resources, upcoming training opportunities and other events as well as state and local statistics on overdoses.

Fully launched this month, the website was designed in part by students at the Advanced Career Education Center at Hermitage High School. The site features a video produced by students from Deep Run High School that highlights individuals in recovery as well as participants of the ORBIT Program. The Henrico Sheriff’s Office started the program in 2015 to provide step-by-step guidance to help jail inmates overcome an addiction to opiates. ORBIT stands for Opiate Recovery by Intensive Tracking.

“Task force members recognized from the outset that we need to engage students and their families because this horrific epidemic threatens every segment of society,” Stephen said. “By having students help with the website and video, we hope to give them — and their families and peers — the information they need to avoid these dangerous, highly addictive drugs.”

The Heroin Task Force also is printing 30,000 refrigerator magnets that will feature the website’s logo and address. Emergency responders will leave a magnet after treating someone following an overdose, giving the individual and his or her family access to information to support recovery.

County Manager John A. Vithoulkas established the task force in May 2016 to ensure the county has a comprehensive, coordinated response to the heroin and opioid epidemic. The group includes representatives of various agencies, including Henrico Area Mental Health & Developmental Services, Henrico Health District, the Police and Fire divisions, the Sheriff’s and Commonwealth’s Attorney’s offices, Henrico County Public Schools, Community Corrections and Circuit Court.

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