WUSA9: Virginia leaders push legislation to help end fentanyl crisis


When it comes to the opioid crisis, numbers tell a story in Virginia

New data shows that in the last three years, there were 177 fentanyl overdose deaths in Prince William County alone, and 47 additional suspected cases are pending toxicology results. The county also administered the overdose reversal spray, Narcan, nearly 500 times. There were more than 4440,000 counterfeit pills seized in the same timeframe. “In the first two months of this year in Prince William County, we’ve had 10 suspected fentanyl overdose deaths,” Chief of Police Peter Newsham said. 

The chief shared those numbers Tuesday at a press conference alongside other leaders who are concerned that fentanyl now makes up eight out of 10 deadly overdoses. They also expressed concern over how many more people are choosing to smoke the highly addictive synthetic opioid. “[We need to] remind folks that this is real,” Newsham said. “These are real people who are dying.” While the police chief says the number of fentanyl overdoses in the county has somewhat plateaued, the cases are still alarming. He confirms a very small percentage involves fentanyl laced in marijuana. “The fight against fentanyl is far from over but we have the knowledge, the skills, the technology and in Virginia, we have the commitment to come out on top,” said Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D- VA) who is running for Virginia governor Spanberger said to help end the fentanyl crisis she is pushing bipartisan legislation aimed at giving law enforcement the tools to better investigate online sales of counterfeit pills. The congresswoman is also pushing for a program to help fund local police departments with high-end tech screening devices that can detect fentanyl in minutes, instead of waiting weeks from the lab. “It ensures that law enforcement knows what they’re dealing with,” Spanberger said. “If we have that tool and recognize that’s it’s laced with fentanyl, that warning in the geographical area can be extremely helpful,” added Newsham. Both Spanberger and Newsham warned parents of young people to be aware of the dangers that fake drugs laced with fentanyl pose, and to have ongoing talks with their kids about drug safety. 

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