Roanoke Valley has one of the highest rates of prescription drug, heroin overdoses in Virginia

By Brie Jackson - Weekend Anchor / Reporter
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ROANOKE (WSLS 10) - The Roanoke Valley has some of the highest rates of prescription drug or heroin overdoses in the state.

Local agencies continue to focus on solutions as both federal and state officials are pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into solving Southwest Virginia's drug problem.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) awarded the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health the Strategic Prevention Framework Partnership for Success (SPF-PFS) the Prescription Drug Misuse and Abuse and Heroin Overdose Prevention grant.

Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare will serve as the fiscal agent and provide leadership structure in collaboration with the Roanoke Area Youth Substance Abuse Coalition (RAYSAC) as the coalition serving the Roanoke Valley. The focus is on prescription drug and heroin abuse. Officials said 12 community service boards across the state were awarded grant money through the program, eight of those were located in Southwest Virginia.

"We have a high rate of heroin and prescription drug misuse in the Roanoke Valley," said RAYSAC director Kathy Sullivan.

Sullivan said the area will receive $600,000, over the next five years, to help with the prescription drug and heroin issue. Sullivan said traffic along Interstate 81 and accessibility are factors contributing to the high number of cases in Southwest Virginia.

"I think that is why we are seeing prescription drug abuse turn into heroin abuse because it is not as expensive, it is very accessible," she said.

Staff at Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare along with law enforcement agencies, the medical community and other groups plan to take proactive steps to eradicate the epidemic. The SPF-PFS program is based on the premise that changes at the community level will, over time, lead to measurable changes. The program included several phases such as conducting a local needs assessment, looking at the health disparities data and defining project targets such as specific groups, geographic areas, communities, demographics.

This Saturday is the annual Drug Take Back event. People are encouraged to bring old and unwanted prescription drugs for safe destruction.

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