What is the Opioid Work Group?
City staff and community partners are working together to respond locally to the effects of the opioid crisis through the Opioid Work Group. Formed in 2015, Work Group is comprised of representatives from a range of city services that takes a multi-dimensional approach to attacking the crisis.
The Work Group collects and shares data, is working to understand the scope of the problem and design strategies to address the crisis. In July 2017, they drafted an initial list of priorities to address opioid misuse and overdose deaths in the city. Mirroring the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis plan, this initial plan is holistic, system-wide and focuses on five key areas:
- Opioid addiction prevention and education
- Opioid addiction treatment
- Overdose response and recovery
- Diversion of people with addiction into treatment
- Supply reduction and law enforcement strategies
Who participates in the Opioid Work Group?
- Department of Community and Human Services
- Alexandria Fire Department
- Alexandria Police Department
- Alexandria Sheriff's Office
- Alexandria City Public Schools
- Virginia Department of Corrections/Probation and Parole
- Commonweath's Attorney's Office
- Alexandria Health Department
- Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition of Alexandria
- Inova Alexandria Hospital
What has the Work Group Accomplished so far?
Below are some of the accomplishments spearheaded by the Work Group as it cooperates across departments and with the Alexandria community.
PREVENTION AND EDUCATION
- Hosted two community events. Watch a video from the Opioid Community Conversation in February and read an article in the Alexandria Gazette about the Community Action Planning Meeting in April.
- Received two $50,000 state grants aimed at opioid prevention activities. The first one-time funding was used to conduct a city-wide Needs Assessment. Alexandrians completed surveys and participated in focus groups to help the Work Group better understand the trends in opioid use and how to prioritize addressing the needs of persons who use opioids. The Work Group received the second grant this year.
- Educational material and
publications. In an
ongoing project, the Work Group is creating a family of publications to educate
and inform the community, health providers, users and others about the crisis,
the local impact and services available. Some of those publications include:
- Educational packets designed by the Health Department and distributed to prescribers. To date, the packets have been distributed to over 69 providers. Contact the Health Department at 703.746.4888 to learn more about these packets.
- Information flyer highlighting what to do in the event of an overdose. The Work Group encourages you to print and distribute this flyer.
- Business-size cards with substance use treatment information being used by law enforcement officers when encountering persons in need of treatment.
- A rack card with information of how to dispose of unused medications for distribution in funeral homes. To inquire about obtaining copies of this card, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Online information. A local website was developed and is continually updated and expanded. The Work Group is also working with regional partners to develop a regional website.
- Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition of Alexandria increased efforts:
- Added prescription drug and opioid prevention to their Action Plan.
- Prescription drugs and opioids highlighted in wreckED workshops provided to middle and high school students (both public and private).
- Purchased permanent drug take back box for Neighborhood Pharmacy in Del Ray, which is accessible for dropping off unused and unneeded drugs during the pharmacy’s regular operating hours.
- Alexandria Police Department efforts increased to divert addicted persons into treatment. APD is educating all sworn staff on opioid addiction, developed a practice of not charging overdose victims in most circumstances and informing victims about services and how to get help.
- Health Department and DCHS medical staff trained. All Health Department public health nurses are trained to counsel anyone regarding opioid overdoses, how to activate the emergency response system and to administer Narcan. All medical staff from DCHS substance use treatment programs are trained in how to administer Narcan.
- Opioid Treatment Program expanded. Two additional therapists have been added and persons misusing opioids are prioritized for admission to DCHS treatment services. Intakes into the Opioid Treatment Program have also been streamlined to allow for faster and easier admission of anyone in need.
- Sheriff’s Office Opioid Work Group developed. Detention Center staff formed the group, which is investigating opioid treatment services being used in other jails.
- Detention Center inmates receiving Narcan training. Staff began REVIVE! Trainings for inmates, who will be given Narcan at release.
- Opioid Treatment Program client training. Clients enrolled in the Opioid Treatment Program are offered and encouraged to take training in how to use of Narcan.
In addition, DCHS staff is pursuing the certification process to be able to store Narcan on-site and provide it to clients who are engaged in treatment programs, and the Health Department has requested that Virginia Department of Health analyze sub-jurisdictional areas to determine if Alexandria qualifies for a needle exchange program.
oVERDOSE RESPONSE AND RECOVERY
- Wide and free distribution of
Narcan. Narcan can save the life of someone who is overdosing, if
given in time. It is available without a prescription at all pharmacies. Also obtain it for free at the Alexandria Health Department’s main office at 4480 King St.
(Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., except Thursday, 12:45 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.)
or call 703.746.4888.
- Jail medical staff now store Narcan in case of an inmate overdoes or staff exposure.
- APD Vice/Narcotics and K-9 units now carry Narcan.
- REVIVE! Trainings. To date, over 18 community trainings on how to respond to an opioid overdose and administer Narcan have been held, including to the Northern Virginia school nurses, Carpenter’s Shelter, Al-Anon, Medical Reserve Crop volunteers and ARHA. Sheriff and APD staff are being trained, and DCHS programs are providing trainings and Naloxone to clients and staff and clients being treated for substance use disorders are receiving targeted trainings. In addition, staff members throughout the City have taken the training. Find out more about how you can take a REVIVE! Training.
- Increased cooperation in response to overdoses. APD now responds to every opioid overdose in conjunction with Emergency Medical Services. Detectives refer clients to treatment and share names of overdose victims with DCHS staff, who then contact these persons to offer treatment. Last March, DCHS staff conducted a city-wide outreach to victims of 2017 opioid overdoses. In addition, Inova Alexandria Hospital began providing substance use assessments to persons at risk and now refer those individuals to treatment.
- Overdose Spike Response Plan enacted. Public health emergency press releases and flyers are distributed during any overdose spike incidents.
- Safety precautions instituted by law enforcement. APD has limited field testing of substances due to safety concerns, and they have purchased covered, hooded testing devices to be used in cases where field testing is necessary. Sheriff staff is trained on exposure via roll call trainings, and booking staff now use impermeable gloves for searches of inmates and inmate property.
- EMS emphasize Narcan. EMS staff worked with the Office of EMS/Virginia Department of Health to change the regulations to make it easier for EMS agencies to store, transport and administer Narcan in the field. Staff also secured a grant for Narcan to be carried on all engine and ladder trucks, which are first responders to critical calls.
diversion of persons with use disorders into treatment
- Exploration begun on Treatment Court. The Work Group formed a subgroup—led by APD, Probation and Parole and Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office—to explore feasibility of opening a Treatment Court in Alexandria. A Treatment Court Steering Committee was created to explore how to begin such a program in Alexandria and is applying for a federal grant to develop and manage the Treatment Court.
- APD efforts increased to divert addicted persons into treatment. APD developed a practice of not charging overdose victims in most circumstances. Vice/Narcotics is conducting roll call trainings to all staff on the opioid crisis, and APD briefed the CAT 21 committee on opioid crisis.
- Crisis Intervention Team trainings now include information on the opioid crisis.
supply reduction and law enforcement
- All opioid overdoses are now being tracked via the HIDTA OD Map. This allows for real-time monitoring of the crisis and provides alerts to staff when a spike occurs locally or nearby.
- Joint Operation Purple Rain resulted in the dismantling of a multi-state heroin distribution organization.
- APD Vice/Narcotics conducts regular street level heroin operations.
The Work Group welcomes community input, cooperation and participation in ongoing and future projects and initiatives.