Prince William Supervisor Frank Principi, D-Woodbridge, is calling on the county to spend an additional $200,000 to expand treatment programs for opioid addicts, though his fellow supervisors are urging caution. Principi proposed the measure at the Board of County Supervisors’ Dec. 5 meeting.
He wants to see the money go toward buying medical supplies and hiring two temporary substance abuse counselors through the summer, which would help the county offer assistance to every person currently on the waiting list for a drug treatment program. But Principi stressed that this cash, to be drawn from the county’s fiscal 2018 contingency fund, is only a stopgap solution to address the impacts of the opioid epidemic in Prince William. He also wants County Executive Christopher Martino to include some more permanent measures in the county’s new budget, which supervisors will start reviewing over the next few months.
“Opioid abuse in this country has resulted in more deaths than the Vietnam War…and here at home, we’re not immune,” Principi said.
Indeed, county police told the board in March that they’ve seen a spike in overdoses involving heroin and prescription pain medicine since 2012, mirroring similar trends across the state (and across the country). In all, the county’s medical examiner recorded a 40 percent increase in opioid overdose deaths over the past five years, including 52 in 2016 alone.
At the same meeting, Principi was disturbed to learn that the county’s community services division is having trouble keeping pace with the demand for drug treatment services. Although the county’s waiting list has shrunk slightly since that presentation, Principi says 68 people are still hoping for treatment, with an average wait time of about three months.
“It’s unacceptable to me that we should have any wait list at all,” Principi said. “County staff is doing everything possible, but they do not have the resources to reduce wait list in current budget.”