By Alexa Epitropoulos | [email protected]
An uptick in overdoses over the span of a week has the Alexandria Police Department concerned.
Local law enforcement responded to six opioid overdoses and one fatality during the week between Oct. 1 and 8, police announced in a news release.
“While the Alexandria Police Department does not condone drug use, we are concerned about the medical safety of the opioids, including heroin, that people in the area are currently using,” the release read. “The opioids could be extremely concentrated or mixed with something unusual that is resulting in life threatening situations.”
That follows a surge in overdoses between 2012 and 2016, as revealed in previous Times reporting. Forty-four Alexandria residents died from overdoses in that time period. The number of opioid overdoses totaled 105 in 2016, up from 88 overdoses in 2015. The city projected, based on 2017 trends, that overdoses would reach a high of 123 by the end of this year.
Alexandria is one of a handful of cities in the commonwealth to have a publicly
funded opioid treatment program, but the program has struggled to keep up with soaring demand while facing staffing and funding constraints. In 2016, new admissions to the program were frozen, with the exception of pregnant women, after the program’s longtime physician left.
The opioid treatment program serves nearly 200 patients in some way per year, including through medication-assisted treatment and inpatient withdrawal management services
– with a capacity of 35 patients at a time — for the most severe cases. It also provides therapy, case management and outpatient services. Most program services are provided to participants either free or at a low cost.
The opioid treatment program assisted 191 people in fiscal year 2015, 188 in fiscal year 2016 and 170 in fiscal year 2017. Police urged those suffering from addiction to contact 703-746-3535 for treatment services and referrals and 703-746-3636 for detox services.
Non-city residents can find treatment options at www.samhsa.gov or by calling 800-662-4357.
Anyone with information about overdoses is asked to call the police department at 703-746-6277.
The Alexandria Times is exploring the opioid crisis through its “Opioids in Alexandria” series. You can contact the Times with news tips related to this issue at [email protected].