Martinsville Bulletin: Local officials say medical resources needed to fight drug problem

May 6, 2017

By Mickey Powell

MARTINSVILLE – Drug abuse mainly is a medical problem – not a crime problem – and more resources are needed locally to combat it, area law-enforcement officials and community services providers told state Attorney General Mark Herring on Friday.

“It’s a demon disease” that affects people from all socioeconomic backgrounds, said Dr. Jody Hershey, director of the West Piedmont Health District.

Herring agreed. During a roundtable discussion at the Martinsville Municipal Building, focused on the abuse of heroin and other opioids, he pledged to use his influence as the state’s top cop to try and help them get more resources.

Heroin is an illegal drug, but opioids also include powerful pain relievers legally available to people receiving prescriptions from their doctors.

Virginia Department of Health statistics show that in January, Martinsville-Henry County had the state’s highest rate – equivalent to 32 per 100,000 people – of hospital emergency department visits involving unintentional opioid or unspecified substance-related overdoses. That number fell to 15.3 per 100,000 in February, when 10 other localities statewide had higher rates.

But opioid abuse remains a problem locally, as it is nationwide, officials say.

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