Loudoun County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) was on Capitol Hill Monday to address Congress on the opioid epidemic and what local health departments are doing.
Randall was speaking at a Congressional briefing also in her role as a member of the National Association of Counties, and chairwoman of Virginia’s Board of Corrections.
She said it’s important the conversation around the opioid epidemic not happen “in a vacuum, while missing the opportunity to have a needed, national discussion on the clinical condition of substance dependence.”
“Twenty-five years ago, the drug that was ravaging urban America was cocaine in the ‘free base form,’ otherwise known as crack cocaine. Fifteen years ago, it was PCP in liquid form, often called ‘water,’ and five years ago, it was methamphetamine, and today, it’s opioids,” Randall said. “No matter the substance or the community most impacted by that substance we need a national response to the disease of substance dependence.”
She also relayed the impact of opioids on Loudoun County, and what the county is doing—including issuing Narcan to first responders, training people to recognize the symptoms of an overdose, and being “engaged in ongoing community conversations about substance use.”
“Until we remove the stigma from this clinical condition people who are using opioids and other substances will be less likely to seek assistance or help and more likely to die,” Randall said. She added that the country will not be able to arrest or incarcerate its way out of the problem.
According to the National Association of County and City Health Officials, overdoses caused by opioids—both prescription and illicit—are responsible for the deaths of 91 Americans every day. The event, sponsored by the National Association of County and City Health Officials, the National Association of Counties, and the United States Conference of Mayors, was meant to highlight the importance of federal, state, and local partnerships to combat the epidemic.