Stopping a scourge
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.