Central VA sees dramatic increase in opiate overdoses in 2016

Central VA sees dramatic increase in opiate overdoses in 2016

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Drug overdoses are happening in the grocery stores where you shop, the parks where you take your children, and even the restaurants you frequent.

For 31-year-old Amanda Rogers, it happened to her in a fast food bathroom -- a nearly lethal dose of heroin.

"I went for the door knob, like I knew I had to get out of the bathroom before something happened. I could feel it. I didn't make it that far," said Rogers.

The Department of Health says emergency room visits for heroin overdoses jumped 89 percent during the first nine months of 2016, compared to the same period the year before.

"It took about 30 seconds, and I knew it. I knew it immediately. I was like, 'I'm feeling this entirely too much,'" Rogers said.

The situation has gotten so dire that in November, the state health commissioner declared opioid addiction a public health emergency, saying it "affects the health and safety of Virginians."

"I could feel them trying to put me on a stretcher. I could feel them trying to put me on an ambulance," said Rogers. "I had no pulse at all."

Rogers' experience is not uncommon.

Heroin overdoses spiked all across Richmond, Henrico, and Chesterfield in 2016.

According to data from Henrico Police, there were 201 heroin and opioid overdoses in the county in 2016, up from 112 the year before. Of the overdoses in Henrico in 2016, 36 were fatal.

Most happen in the victim's own home, but many are playing out in very public places, like store parking lots - one even near a local farmer's market.

In Chesterfield, there were 171 opiate overdoses last year, 33 of which were fatal, according to data from the county's police department.

At least five of those overdoses happened at gas stations and parking lots along Jefferson Davis Highway. One even happened at a park
on Drewry's Bluff Road, just feet from where children play.

However, the sharpest spike on opiate overdoes occurred in Richmond. Richmond Police's data shows overdoses more than doubled from 2015. Last
year, there were 388 overdoses in the city, and 45 of those people died.

By comparison, there were a total of 148 heroin overdoses in the city in 2015. Twenty-one of those instances claimed a life.

Rogers survived her overdose but says it made a lasting impression on her, one that pushed her to get clean for good.

"I wholeheartedly believe there's a higher power that saved my life that day," said Rogers. "I wholeheartedly believe that if I do it again, I won't wake up. That's it. That was my last shot."

Copyright 2017 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.