State Lawmakers Unite to Address Opioid Abuse

Feb 24, 2017


Tess Nishida, a pain pharmacist at the University of Washington, poses for a photo holding a vial of Naloxone, which can be used to block the potentially fatal effects of an opioid overdose. Legislation passed this year in Virginia would make Naloxone easier to get.
Credit Ted S. Warren / AP

During this year’s General Assembly session, lawmakers fought bitterly over several controversial issues — things like restoring voting rights to former felons or the availability of abortion services. But one issue had lawmakers from both parties working together with the governor: Virginia’s opioid problem. 

Michael Pope has the story.


Republican Delegate John O’Bannon of Henrico says Virginia’s has an opioid crisis. That’s why he worked with a handful of lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to craft a series of bills to address the issue. His bill creates a needle exchange program. 


"This program is basically a regional or limited program that will permit addicts to get clean syringes and needles,” he explains.


That’s been a controversial idea for many years, and a similar effort failed last year. But now nearly one in every 200 people in Southwest Virginia have Hepatitis C, a virus spread by using dirty needles.

Republican Delegate Chris Stolle of Virginia Beach passed legislation that allows child protective services to show up in the home of addicted mothers and conduct assessments. 


“Those are not being done now on women who were previously identified as being either on treatment or previously identified as being on opioids for prescription," says Stolle.


Other bills that came out of the General Assembly this year increase access to the overdose-reversal drug naloxone and create a new online database of opioid prescriptions.