June 05, 2014

Virginia Delegation Calls For Statewide Task Force To Address Growing Heroin Epidemic

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a joint letter sent today, 12 members of the Virginia Congressional Delegation called on Governor Terry McAuliffe to establish a statewide task force to address the growing heroin epidemic in Virginia. The bipartisan group of legislators, including U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, Congressman Frank Wolf, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Congressmen Randy Forbes, Morgan Griffith, Jim Moran, Gerry Connolly, Bob Goodlatte, Robert Hurt, Scott Rigell and Rob Wittman – expressed serious concern over the rapid spread of heroin use across the Commonwealth and its devastating impact on Virginia communities.

In the letter, they urged Governor McAuliffe to swiftly address this growing crisis and assemble a statewide task force modeled after the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug/Gang Task Force that confronted gang violence in the Commonwealth. 

“We write out of our deep concern about the rapid spread of heroin use – and overdose deaths due to heroin – throughout Virginia over the last year,” the bipartisan group of legislators wrote. “Not a week goes by without a local newspaper or TV news program in Virginia reporting on the death of yet another heroin addict. Many localities are on track to see double the number of heroin overdose deaths over last year…We urge you to assemble a statewide task force to address the growing heroin epidemic in Virginia.” 

 Full text of the letter is below:

June 4, 2014 

The Hon. Terry McAuliffe

Governor of Virginia

1111 East Broad St.

Richmond, VA 23219

Dear Governor McAuliffe: 

We write out of our deep concern about the rapid spread of heroin use – and overdose deaths due to heroin – throughout Virginia over the last year.  This epidemic has spread to communities where heroin was hardly seen just a few years ago, but now is seen on a daily basis by law enforcement and health professionals. 

Unlike past heroin epidemics in the U.S., it is not confined primarily to urban areas, but is spreading into suburban and rural communities.  It also has no “class” boundaries.  As one police officer from suburban Prince William County recently told The Washington Post, a decade ago he almost never saw heroin, but “now, it’s literally any day of the week, I can go out and find it.”

Not a week goes by without a local newspaper or TV news program in Virginia reporting on the death of yet another heroin addict.  Many localities are on track to see double the number of heroin overdose deaths over last year. 

According to the Congressional Research Service, nationally, heroin use nearly doubled from 2002 to 2012 – including a 79 percent spike from 2007 to 2012 alone.  And these numbers do not account for the rapid spread we have seen in our communities over the last two years.

We urge you to assemble a statewide task force to address the growing heroin epidemic in Virginia.  One model for this multi-jurisdictional task force can be found in the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug/Gang Task Force, which is comprised of police and sheriffs’ offices in the northern Shenandoah Valley.  This task force model was successful in northern Virginia and the Valley in confronting violent gangs a decade ago, and we believe could be applied across the Commonwealth successfully.  

Congressman Wolf recently met with the task force to discuss challenges facing law enforcement in addressing the heroin crisis.  It made legislative recommendations that can be found in the attached letter

We encourage the consideration of appropriate legislative changes to support law enforcement and communities to confront this threat, to better protect communities and to save lives.  It is imperative that Virginia move quickly to address the spread of heroin before more lives are lost. 

Sincerely,

Mark Warner                                                                        Tim Kaine

U.S. Senator                                                                        U.S. Senator

Eric Cantor                                                                            Gerry Connolly

Member of Congress                                                             Member of Congress

Randy Forbes                                                                       Bob Goodlatte

Member of Congress                                                          Member of Congress

Morgan Griffith                                                                    Robert Hurt

Member of Congress                                                          Member of Congress

Jim Moran                                                                             Scott Rigell

Member of Congress                                                          Member of Congress

Frank R. Wolf                                                                       Rob Wittman

Member of Congress                                                          Member of Congress

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