Gov. McAuliffe Holds Town Hall, Lays Out Plan to Combat Opioid Epidemic in SWVa.
Nearly 1,200 people died because of opioid overdoses in Virginia, last year. That number is higher than the number of people killed in car crashes or by firearms, according to Governor Terry McAuliffe.
The governor hosted a town hall in Abingdon on Monday to talk about the problem.
In 2014, Governor McAuliffe created a task force to look at the opioid epidemic. Then in 2016, he declared it a 'Public Health Emergency' in the Commonwealth.
"We've got to get on top of this," Governor McAuliffe said. "We got to get folks into treatment. We got to stop doctors from over-prescribing opioids."
It's a problem that Lori Gates-Addison has seen ravage this region for decades.
"A third of our children in our communities are living with someone that's not [their] parent because their mom or dad is dead or in jail," Gates Addison said. "It's not just about providing treatment to the addict, its about treating the whole family."
In a town hall-style meeting, Governor McAuliffe took as many questions as he could, wanting to hear from the people who are at 'ground zero' of the epidemic.
"Eyes and ears are important for us, the state can't do it alone," the governor said. "The federal government can't do it alone. We can only do this with community members, family members working with us."
For some, a solution starts with awareness. In this case, that meant offering free training to use Naloxone, the anti-overdose antidote.
"We need to get as many people in the community trained on Naloxone rescue which we're doing tonight," Dr. Sarah Melton said. "So that they understand what are risk factors for overdosing on opioids."
For others, they're just happy to see the governor taking notice and action in Southwest Virginia.
"I'm not glad that the problem has reached further points in Virginia," Gates-Addison said. "But it certainly has gotten us more attention. So I'm glad they're coming here."
News 5 also asked Governor McAuliffe what are some of his goals to combat this epidemic. He said that by 2020, he plans to have a prescription monitoring program in place in the Commonwealth.