37ºF

Roanoke Valley bands together to battle opioid epidemic

ROANOKE, Va. – The Roanoke Valley is banding together to battle the opioid epidemic.

After reading "Dopesick," by local author Beth Macy, community leaders began looking at better ways to handle the crisis.

Patricia Mehrmann is still coping with the loss of her daughter, Tess Henry. The 28-year-old struggled with an opioid addiction that her mother believes led to her murder in Las Vegas last year. Mehrmann hopes the new effort in the Roanoke Valley can save other families from the same fate. 

"We could be a national example of how we can embrace this crisis and make a big difference," said Mehrmann. 

The Roanoke Valley Collective Response to combat opioid and addiction crisis is up and running. The group is made up of community members and leaders from dozens of local organizations like hospitals, schools, churches and law enforcement. The Roanoke Valley Hope Initiative has been working to gather the group for a couple years. 

"Everybody is struggling because the crisis just keeps escalating. So together, the Collective Response is going to help us find better solutions, a better way of doing things," said Janine Underwood, executive director of the Bradley Free Clinic. 

The Collective Response will meet monthly. The goal is to open up discussion and look at ways to increase the quality and capacity of treatment. Organizers also hope to identify gaps and needs in the community. Group members say they are hopeful this is a sign of better things to come.

"I'm not doing this alone. I'm not doing this for me. My daughter, Tess, is working through me to help change the world for others. And we are going to make a change here in the Roanoke Valley. I absolutely know it. It's going to happen," said Mehrmann. 

If you're interested in joining the Collective Response, you can call the Hope Initiative at 540-339-9010.