Governor, First Lady, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, General Assembly Leaders and Cabinet Officials Join with Students and Community Leaders to Battle Epidemic
Governor Glenn Youngkin, First Lady Suzanne S. Youngkin, and state and local officials recognized May 9, 2023, as National Fentanyl Awareness Day in Virginia with the signing of a sweeping executive order and a series of events to fight the fentanyl and opioid crisis.
The fentanyl epidemic is both a national security concern and a serious public health emergency. As a result, Governor Youngkin signed Executive Order 26, effective immediately, which directs the launch of a new comprehensive fentanyl-fighting strategy across public safety, prevention, education, and treatment, and includes structural changes to better position Virginia’s government to fight the epidemic. The executive order comes on top of the Governor’s Right Help, Right Now plan to transform behavioral health, which includes a critical goal to reduce opioid overdoses in Virginia by 20 percent.
“Fentanyl poisoning has devastated families and communities across Virginia. We cannot stand by as Virginians lose their lives when there are steps we can take to combat this deadly fentanyl poisoning crisis. We must act,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. “I am confident that together these measures are significant steps to reduce the occurrence of fentanyl overdoses and deaths in the Commonwealth.”
One critical tool highlighted by the Governor during Fentanyl Awareness Day is REVIVE! training, which prepares Virginians on how to recognize and respond to an opioid overdose emergency using naloxone. Naloxone is a prescription medicine that reverses opioid overdoses by temporarily blocking the effects of opioids until first responders arrive. REVIVE! training is offered to anyone interested in preventing and reducing opioid overdoses, and Virginia has worked to make naloxone readily available. In all, about 60 REVIVE! trainings and events in Virginia communities were held on May 9 in an effort to curb the opioid and fentanyl crisis throughout the Commonwealth.
“Fentanyl is poisoning Virginians and Americans, and losses have become far too familiar,” said First Lady S. Suzanne Youngkin. “Last year, thousands of Virginians lost their lives to fentanyl poisoning, and Glenn and I have grieved with personal friends over the loss of loved ones. Every single Virginian has a role to play in the important work to curb the opioid crisis that is impacting our Commonwealth. Through a comprehensive strategy that focuses on the needs of our most vulnerable, we aim to find solutions and destigmatize conversations as well as spread awareness about life-saving naloxone mist.”
“Today, five Virginians will die from fentanyl. Tomorrow and every day this year, an average of five Virginians will die from this deadly drug. I am grateful Governor Youngkin for launching a comprehensive strategy that supports education and prevention, expands treatment and enhances interdiction and to the First Lady for her outreach to the families affected by overdose and her work to educate young people and their parents,” said Secretary of Health and Human Resources John E. Littel. “I also want to thank the staff of the Virginia Department of Health and the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services who trained thousands of Virginians in life-saving naloxone treatment today.”
Events throughout the Commonwealth on Fentanyl Awareness Day included:
REVIVE! Training at Stafford High School (Fredericksburg, VA) – Governor and First Lady Youngkin visited Stafford High School for a REVIVE! training for the school’s student body. Following the training, the Governor signed Executive Order 26 and eight bills that will strengthen the Commonwealth’s efforts to combat the fentanyl and opioid crisis, including HB 1682 (Delegate Scott Wyatt) and SB 1188 (Senator Bryce Reeves), SB 1414 and SB 1415 (Senator Todd Pillion), HB 1709 (Delegate Mike Cherry) and SB 1424 (Senator Todd Pillion), and HB 1524 (Delegate Carrie Coyner) and SB 820 (Senator Barbara Favola).
The Governor and First Lady were joined by Lieutenant Governor Winsome Earle-Sears, Attorney General Jason Miyares, Delegate Tara Durant, Delegate Scott Wyatt, Delegate Phil Scott, Senator Ryan McDougle, Senator Bryce Reeves, former Delegate Tim Anderson, Virginia Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Karen Shelton, Superintendent of Stafford County Schools Dr. Thomas Taylor, Stafford High School Principal Allen Hicks, Stafford County Sheriff David “DP” Decatur, and the Secretaries of Health and Human Resources, Education, and Public Safety and Homeland Security.
Listening Session with Virginia Mothers Whose Families have been Impacted by Fentanyl (Shady Grove Family YMCA; Glen Allen, Virginia) – Governor and First Lady Youngkin heard Virginia Moms Against Fentanyl share personal stories about the dangers of fentanyl and opioid use. The Governor and First Lady were joined by Health and Human Resources Secretary John Littel and Senator Siobhan Dunnavant.
Barber Shop Talk and Training (Petersburg, Virginia) – Secretary of the Commonwealth Kay Coles James and Secretary of Health and Human Resources John Littel visited Another Level Cosmetology and Beauty School in Petersburg to hear more about the impact of fentanyl on Virginia’s communities and especially the rapid growth in the Black community. They were joined by community activist and radio personality Clovia Lawrence, Pastor Calvin Duncan of the Faith & Family Church, Ron Burtan, Chief Executive Officer of Universal Life Service, and Anastasia Madden, owner of Avalon Recovery House LLC. Students and residents of Petersburg were trained in Narcan (naloxone) by the Virginia Department of Health.
Other events included:
- Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Robert Mosier spoke to prisoners and staff at State Farm Prison in Powhatan, Virginia about the dangers of fentanyl.
- Secretary of Education Aimee Guidera joined 80 students, faculty and staff for a REVIVE! training at Germanna Community College in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
- Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs Craig Crenshaw participated in a REVIVE! training at the Virginia War Memorial in Richmond, Virginia. The First Lady joined this training as well.
- Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services Commissioner Nelson Smith and Department of Medical Assistance Services Director Cheryl Roberts visited an event at Norfolk Community Services Board designed to educate about harm-reduction methods like prescription pill disposal and medication lock boxes.
- Chairman of Virginia’s Opioid Abatement Authority, Senator Todd Pillion, participated in the Highlands Community Services Board REVIVE! Training at the Lee Street Baptist Church in Bristol, Virginia.
In addition, the Virginia Department of Health and the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, along with many of Virginia’s 40 locally-operated community services boards, planned special REVIVE! trainings and other community events so as many Virginians as possible can learn more about how to prevent fentanyl and opioid misuse and assist someone experiencing an overdose. Find more information about trainings and events on May 9 and find opportunities for future trainings here: HHR Pillar 4.
Governor’s Flag Order for the Commonwealth of Virginia ordered on May 8, 2023 – In accordance with the authority vested in me as Governor, I hereby order that the flags of the United States of America and the Commonwealth of Virginia be flown at half-staff on all state and local buildings and grounds in the Commonwealth of Virginia in memory of those who tragically lost their lives to fentanyl poisoning and for strength to the families left behind suffering from their losses. I hereby order that the flags are also lowered on Tuesday, May 9, 2023, in memory of the victims and families of fentanyl poisoning.
Fentanyl in Virginia – Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is approximately 30 times more potent than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. According to the DEA, Fentanyl remains the deadliest drug threat facing this country: just two milligrams of fentanyl, which is equal to 10-15 grains of table salt, is a lethal dose, and without laboratory testing, there is no way to know how much fentanyl is concentrated in a pill or powder.
Nearly 94 percent of all fatal opioid deaths in Virginia in 2020 were unintentional. In 2021, fentanyl caused or contributed to over 76 percent of all opioid overdose deaths in Virginia. Over the last three years, more Virginians passed away from fatal drug overdoses than motor vehicle and gun-related deaths combined. Drug overdose is the leading cause of unnatural death in Virginia.