Roanoke City, County get thousands in funding to fight the opioid epidemic

Data shows Roanoke has some of the highest non-fatal overdose rates in the country per capita

ROANOKE, Va. – The Roanoke region is getting hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight the opioid epidemic, as part of opioid settlements.

As we’ve reported, data shows Roanoke has some of the highest non-fatal overdose rates in the country per capita.

The City of Roanoke received a $252,867 award from the Virginia Opioid Abatement Authority (OAA). We’re told the money will be used for projects such as Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) Awareness and Training, peer recovery specialists, xylazine test strips and mass spectrometer, supplies and training for City EMS staff, and a marketing campaign for the ‘warm line’ at Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare

Xylazine is a strong veterinary sedative now being used in street drugs and has been linked to an increasing number of overdose deaths.

In addition, Roanoke – in partnership with Roanoke County – received a $500,000 OAA Cooperative Partnership grant to build and expand the regional recovery ecosystem with the Roanoke Valley Collective Response.

The collective response is described as a multi-sector initiative working across systems to solve the opioid and addiction crisis across the region. With goals of collaborating across multiple disciplines, educating the community, and implementing recovery-oriented solutions, RVCR ultimately seeks to tackle the root causes of the addiction crisis and implement regional solutions to abate the substance use disorder crisis. RVCR is comprised of over 230 members and 150 organizations across 11 localities.

As millions of dollars go to communities across the country many hope the settlement money is subject to intense oversight. They point to the tobacco settlement money being used for things that weren’t related to tobacco.

10 News talked to author Beth Macy, who’s covered the opioid crisis for more than a decade. She wrote “Dopesick,” which was turned into a Hulu series, and Raising Lazarus, a book following people who are trying to help those using drugs.

“I really hope that money doesn’t get squandered but I’m skeptical because it’s happened before,” said Macy about how she hopes the money will be used. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance for the people who did this to our nation, the distributors and manufacturers of Oxycontin, the other opioid makers who lied about how risky their medications were, it’s their chance to give back to the community. We need things that are evidence-based. We need walk-in clinics where people can get connections to care, supported housing, harm reduction until they’re ready to stop using.”

West Virginia is working through a similar process. This year, the state legislature formally recognized the West Virginia First Foundation, and money they get through the settlement must be used for the opioid epidemic.

The Attorney General and counsel for West Virginia cities and counties worked closely to develop and adopt the MOU which provides a mechanism to distribute opioid settlement funds and provides guidelines on how the funds may be used.

“Approved Purposes” include evidence-based treatment and prevention strategies, law enforcement efforts to stop drug distribution, and supporting addiction recovery programs.

The opioid crisis has been linked to more than 500,000 deaths in the U.S. over the past two decades, including more than 70,000 a year recently.

About the Author

You can see Jenna weekday mornings at the anchor desk on WSLS 10 Today from 5-7 a.m. She also leads our monthly Solutionaries Series, where we highlight the creative thinkers and doers working to make the world a better place.

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