HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - The Glen Allen High School auditorium became a focal point for the fight against the heroin epidemic on Wednesday afternoon, as an open and frank discussion about the deadly drug attracted the nation's top law enforcement leaders, including FBI director James Comey.
Officials hope these open community discussions will lead to the change needed to fight this epidemic, but the numbers are staggering. According to the Henrico County Health Department: one person a week in Henrico dies from an opioid overdose.
"We cannot arrest our way out of this problem," said Comey to the crowd of several hundred people who gathered to hear what he and the head of the DEA, Chuck Rosenberg, had to say about the epidemic. "We will do our part and we will try to lock up as many drug dealers as we can and alert people to the dangers, but the problem is not going to be solved unless it is done is a holistic way."
Comey says prescription opioid addiction and Mexican drug cartels are the two biggest factors contributing to this epidemic, but he says communities play the biggest role in this fight.
"The answer is what is represented in this room, which is attacking that problem from all different dimensions," he said. "It's done by bringing in the faith community, the education community, the medical community."
Comey once called Henrico home and says it can set a great example.
"I have come back many times in my mind over the last 16 years seeking centering, seeking escape, seeking a reminder of what a healthy public community is like," he said. "I've especially made those trips in my mind over the past 12 months."
That comment was met with laughter from the crowd.
The documentary Chasing the Dragon about the effects of opiate addiction was also featured to the crowd of several hundred people. The high level of interest gives Comey great hope.
"We've been all over the country, all over the world talking about this hard issue," says Comey "And we've never seen a gathering like this."
Henrico County Manager John Vithoulkas also announced that for the first time in Henrico history he is hoping to establish a task force to fight the heroin epidemic. Vithoulkas said he will be asking to make room in the budget for the task force.
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