Virginia Beach City Council talks opioid epidemic

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -  City council members met Tuesday to discuss the steps needed to fight the deadly impact of the growing opioid epidemic in Virginia Beach.

Dr. Heidi Kulberg, Director of the Virginia Beach Department of Public Health presented council with the latest data and ways the city is responding.

Kulberg says Virginia Beach saw a record 72 opioid overdose deaths in 2016 - about one every five days, which is good for second in Virginia. That number was also a 41% increase in deaths between 2016 and 2015.

In 2017, more than 33 people have died.

Kulberg is hoping to see this year's number stay below 2016's with the help of new city-wide efforts to fight back against addiction.

Last year, the Virginia Beach Police Department was trained to use the overdose medication called Naloxone or NARCAN.

Kulberg says the city is also implementing 'Medication Assisted Treatment' which uses medications in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies to help addicts get clean.

"Opioid addiction, substance abuse disorder is a chronic neurological disease. It's a brain disease. What we're dealing with is not a moral failure," said Kulberg.

The city is also working with Norfolk and Portsmouth to roll out a peer outreach initiative to put specialists who have personal experience with addiction in Emergency departments.

The goal is to have that initiative up and running by the end of the year.

If you're concerned about yourself or a loved with an addiction call City of Virginia Beach Human Services at 385-0866, or for emergencies, call 385-0888.

Related:

Virginia Beach continues to battle opioid overdose