Gov. McAuliffe signs bills to battle opioid epidemic

Gov. McAuliffe signs bills to battle opioid epidemic

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed four bills on Thursday that are designed to battle the opioid epidemic in Virginia.

"Abuse of opioids continues to kill Virginians," said McAuliffe. "We recognize that addiction is a disease, not a moral failing, and our proposals for this General Assembly session focused on preventing addiction and providing treatment for those who suffer from it."

The Virginia Department of Health projects that more than 1,000 people died from fatal opioid overdoses in 2016, a projection that would mean a 33 percent increase in the number of fatal opioid overdoses compared to 2015.

"Opioids and prescription drugs are extremely addictive and make recovery very challenging," said Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam. "We must continue to emphasize addiction prevention."

The bills McAuliffe signed were:

  • SB848 and HB1453, which allow community organizations to possess and dispense naloxone to those that they train to use it.
  • HB2317, which allows local departments of health to administer harm reduction programs in parts of the state with very high rates of HIV and Hep C. These programs will exchange dirty syringes for clean ones, offer testing for Hep C and HIV, and connect people to addiction treatment.
  • HB1786, which initiates a family assessment and plan of care from local social services if a child is found to have been exposed to substances in utero. This connects the mother to treatment if necessary and provides services to ensure the safety of both the mother and the child.
  • HB2165, which mandates that all opioid prescriptions will be transmitted to pharmacies electronically by 2020 and creates a workgroup to study how to implement this change.

"This is a real 'all hands on deck' moment," said Attorney General Mark Herring. "The heroin and opioid crisis is touching families who never imagined they would confront something like this, and yet now are fighting something that feels so overwhelming."

Copyright 2017 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved