Next week in a Dallas suburb, Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman will be presented with a national award for leadership from D.A.R.E. America, the organization that for 34 years has led the effort to give students the basic tools to avoid drug abuse.
It’s a rare achievement, but one that reflects the progress this county has made in coping with the opioid crisis. When Sheriff Chapman came to office in 2012, addiction and overdoses were already on the rise, but largely under the radar of the general public. The families involved didn’t discuss it and those in law enforcement remained focused on the crime. As the problem continued to grow, to his credit, Sheriff Chapman played a leading role in changing both.
Today, he is among a bipartisan group of elected leaders who have rallied to raise awareness of the crisis, change the stigma long associated with addiction, and implement life-saving first aid protocols. In the classroom, the D.A.R.E. program—a frequent target of programmatic cuts by previous boards of supervisors—has been expanded to middle schools. For parents, there have been numerous public forums to share information and to hear the heartbreaking stories shared by too many families. Rescue crews and deputies responding to overdose calls now carry the tools that reverse an otherwise fatal outcome.
The dangers of opioid addiction are only increasing, with heroin replacing prescription pain medications as the accessible drug of choice. Adding to that inherent danger is more the frequent appearance of stronger synthetic pain killers and tranquilizers that are lacing the street drugs. The crisis continues to evolve.
Through the work of the Sheriff’s Office and many of Loudoun’s elected representatives, the county is better equipped to combat opioid addictions than most other communities. In its decision to honor Sheriff Chapman, D.A.R.E. America is putting a national spotlight on those efforts. However, while being held up as an example to others, those on the front line here at home know there is much more that needs to be done.