February 24, 2017
By Paul Collins
MARTINSVILLE–The opioid drug problem is getting worse in Martinsville and Henry County.
Statistics from the Virginia Department of Health show that in January, the area had the highest rate in Virginia per 1000,000 residents for emergency department trips involving unintentional opioid, heroin or “unknown substance” related overdoses.
The average in Virginia was 9.2 visits per 100,000 people. In January, this area saw a rate of 32 emergency visits per 100,000, up from 25.9 in December and 19.8 in November. It’s not a new issue either. Looking at the monthly figures from August through December, this area was among the highest overdose rates among Virginia localities for four of those five months, according to Virginia Department of Health statistics.
“Our community has struggled with a high abuse of narcotics for some years,” Martinsville Police Chief Sean Dunn said. “This is a national issue, but [it] seems to have hit us particularly hard.” On Thursday, Dunn organized a press conference to talk about the issue and his department’s response to it.
“We have positioned our department to best address this issue,” Dunn said. “We have partnered with local, state and federal agencies and have made a number of significant arrests. While we are seeing reduced crime and a safer community, we continue to deal with this issue.”
In December, the police department started discussing the issue with West Piedmont Health Director Dr. Jody Hershey and Piedmont Community Services Director Greg Preston to try to develop comprehensive solutions, Dunn said. That led to the creation of an Opioid Awareness Task Force.
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