A Serious Plan on Opioid Addiction; Democrats Blow-Off the Suffering of Thousands

Virginia’s Republican ticket for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general unveiled their unified policy proposal to combat the opioid epidemic today at a meeting in Fairfax with those who have been affected by and suffered from this crisis.

The team of Ed Gillespie, Sen. Jill Vogel, and John Adams each, in their own way, unveiled a thoughtful and respectful perspective on an issue that affects thousands of Virginians and is worthy of a serious discussion – not politics as usual.

“Thousands of Virginians are facing challenges with mental illness and addiction, and too many of them are struggling to find treatment and recovery,” said Gillespie. “My plan will strengthen our mental and behavioral health services and fight the opioid epidemic that has swept across our Commonwealth. As governor, I will work every day to ensure my fellow Virginians facing behavioral and substance abuse disorders receive the care they deserve, and I will work to prevent addiction, provide intervention and welcome those seeking recovery with open arms.”

Gillespie is proposing serious reforms based on five guiding principles:

1. Addiction is a disease, not a moral failing;
2. A focus on intervention;
3. We cannot arrest our way out of the epidemic of addiction;
4. There are multiple pathways to recovery; and
5. Help must be immediate.

The plan is definitely not a “one-size fits all” approach to a major problem and, in many ways, shows a significant shift from how many Republicans have been perceived in combatting drugs. What some might have conceived as a “War on Drugs” that, quite frankly, emphasized war, this plan is more holistic and recognizes that science and human behavior is certainly part of the equation.

“With opioid overdoses claiming more lives than car accidents, the time for action is now,” explained Jill Vogel. “Our policy approach strengthens Virginia’s commitment to preventing abuse and overdoses while unveiling new treatment and recovery programs to help those suffering from addiction get their lives back on track.”

Vogel has been at the forefront of this conversation in her time as a legislator. Just this year she had a bill signed banning a dangerous synthetic opioid that is eight times stronger than heroin and another bill that expands the availability and training of the use of naloxone, a drug which helps save lives by reversing overdoses. She also proposed and had signed into law in 2012 legislation expanding reporting requirements for drug-exposed infants and in 2016, introduced the Behavioral Health Docket Act. This law would “reform the criminal justice system by helping accused nonviolent offenders suffering drug addiction or mental health issues receive treatment for the underlying condition which motivated the offense.”

One has little doubt that a Lt. Governor Vogel would do far more advocacy for this issue than the current lieutenant governor, Ralph Northam, has in more than three years of service.

As this issue clearly involves reforming not only perception but also law enforcement, John Adams has been at the forefront of this conversation since the beginning of his campaign for attorney general.

“This problem affects people in every corner of Virginia,” said Adams. “Since 2013, fatal opioid overdoses have increased 66%. In the last year alone, we have lost over 1,400 lives to drug overdoses in Virginia, outpacing deaths caused by motor vehicle accidents and gun-related incidents.”

Adams plan specific to what the attorney general can do focuses on three major concerns:

1) Prevention and Education
2) Treatment, and
3) Enforcement

“No single individual, agency, or program can turn the tide on the overdose epidemic. However, the attorney general’s office has the ability to be a leader on this issue and bring attention, resources, and coordination statewide to combat the heroin and opioid epidemic,” he said.

Adams concluded that bringing everybody to the table and coordinating efforts is essential to combating this epidemic.

However, the response from Democrats to a legitimate public concern wasn’t “Hey, interesting ideas. Let’s talk about it and determine our common ground.”

Instead, the DPVA chose to not offer anything substantive to what the Commonwealth can actually do on health care, but instead chose to focus on the ongoing policy debate in Washington and blanketly portray Republicans, specifically Gillespie, as “cruel.”

Sure. You can view the Gillespie “cruel” proposal here and more from Adams here.

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