Stop­ping a scourge

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - EDITORIAL PAGE -

When re­gional co­op­er­a­tion be­came a mea­sur­ing stick of a forward-look­ing Rich­mond years ago, bat­tling an opi­oid epi­demic would never have made the pri­or­ity list.

Times un­for­tu­nately have changed and the Rich­mond re­gion can’t ig­nore the painful facts of a drug ad­dic­tion cri­sis so se­vere that the state has called it a pub­lic health emer­gency.

Top elected and ap­pointed lead­ers from Rich­mond and the sur­round­ing coun­ties are re­spond­ing with an ad­mirable show of unity in work­ing to­gether to stop the death and de­struc­tion.

The city and Hen­rico, Chesterfield and Hanover will hold a sum­mit on Oct. 26 to ex­plore so­lu­tions. Fit­tingly, it will take place at a re­gional suc­cess story, the Greater Rich­mond Con­ven­tion Cen­ter.

We’re long be­yond the time to just ask why Re­vive RVA is nec­es­sary. Times-Dis­patch staff writer K. Bur­nell Evans re­ported, for ex­am­ple, in her Satur­day ar­ti­cle that “Vir­ginia Depart­ment of Health data show a 270 per­cent cu­mu­la­tive in­crease in fa­tal over­doses across the four lo­cal­i­ties be­tween 2010 and 2016, from 51 deaths to 189 deaths.”

In the ju­ris­dic­tions’ joint news con­fer­ence last week, Dorothy A. Jaeckle, Chesterfield’s chair­woman of the county Board of Su­per­vi­sors, un­der­scored the chal­lenge: “This is a mul­ti­fac­eted prob­lem with no sim­ple so­lu­tions.”

In­deed. Ex­pe­ri­ence has shown that the lock-em-up ap­proach has no ef­fect. Ten­nessee im­pris­ons drug of­fend­ers at three times the rate New Jersey does, but their drug-abuse rates are al­most iden­ti­cal. Other states, such as Michi­gan and Rhode Is­land, have seen their drug abuse rates fall even af­ter de­creas­ing drug-crime sen­tences. And states such as Vir­ginia, which have tried drug courts on a lim­ited ba­sis, have found suc­cess with them. A leg­isla­tive re­port last year found drug-court grad­u­ates have far lower re­cidi­vism rates. But drug courts are costly and not for ev­ery­one.

Here’s wish­ing this re­gional col­lab­o­ra­tion much suc­cess in build­ing stronger part­ner­ships to take on this scourge that’s wreck­ing fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties. Time is of the essence.


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