Richmond Times-Dispatch: U.S. House approves Spanberger-backed plan for $1M for Henrico detox center


Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-7th, is inching toward providing $1 million to Henrico County and its efforts to build a 24-hour detox and recovery center. The center will provide same-day inpatient detox services.

On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the funding for Henrico in part of a 2022 fiscal year appropriations package. The legislation still needs to be approved by the U.S. Senate and then signed into law by President Joe Biden.

After pausing plans for a third jail in Henrico, county officials announced in November the work to eventually build a $12 million detox center and recovery center to help adults struggling with substance use disorder.

Before his retirement in 2019, then-Henrico Sheriff Mike Wade conducted a survey in 2017 in which nearly 90% of incarcerated people who responded said a drug addiction led to their arrest, although that did not mean they were charged with a drug-related crime.

In 2020, Henrico police said the department had responded to 216 overdose calls in the first six months of the year, nearly twice as many as the 118 calls police answered in first half of 2019.

Spanberger’s funding would provide an additional $1 million for the detox center, said Deputy County Manager Tony McDowell.

“The effort by Rep. Spanberger to secure a million in funding is something that helps move the project forward and open the facility as soon as possible,” McDowell said.

The idea for the detox center, to be located on the county’s Eastern Government Campus on Nine Mile Road, came from the Henrico Recovery Roundtable.

The group, established to address jail overcrowding and the addiction crisis, was co-chaired by Board of Supervisors members Tyrone Nelson and Tommy Branin, members of the Chamber of Commerce and the Henrico NAACP, and representatives from local health departments, health care providers and law enforcement.

Branin said in an interview that after working on the roundtable with Nelson for about nine months, “the biggest thing that came out of it was to address the opioid crisis.”

In 2018, the most recent year for which the county data was available, Henrico had 57 overdose deaths compared with 72 in Richmond, 87 in Chesterfield County and 18 in Hanover County, according to the Virginia Department of Health. Henrico reported 65 overdose deaths in 2017, 61 in 2016 and 46 in 2015.

According to a quarterly fatal overdose VDH report from April, in 2020 statewide fatal opioids overdoses increased by 47.1% from the previous year. There were 1,909 fatal overdoses in 2020, compared with 1,298 in 2019 and 1,215 in 2018.

“It’s going to take more than a building [to address it]. It’s going to take a community,” Branin said.

Branin said it is “refreshing” to have Spanberger go the extra mile for her district.

In a statement, Spanberger said that in order to support community members who struggle with addiction, recovery services need to be more accessible.

“This project would work to fill a problematic gap that exists in the substance abuse treatment resources available to our neighbors who are fighting to escape the firm grasp of addiction,” Spanberger said.

The 24-hour center, set to initially have between 12 and 16 beds, will provide medically supervised detox services. According to a request for proposals published in October, it could take anywhere from 18 to 30 months before the center will open.

The county is in talks with architects over design considerations and with potential partners who will work with the detox center, McDowell said. Those partners include health care providers and organizations in the recovery community.

The Board of Supervisors approved $11 million funding in the fiscal year that began on July 1 for the detox center.

The remaining $1 million is expected to be funded in the next fiscal year.

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