Over the past several years, Virginia has experienced a substantial increase in drug related overdose, deaths, and adverse health consequences resulting from misuse and abuse replicating national trends. A large majority of these deaths involve some form of an opioid, including heroin and prescribed medications such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, fentanyl and morphine. The opioid overdose epidemic continues to strengthen with complexity by the emergence and surge of fentanyl within the Commonwealth, coupled with cocaine and psychostimulants with abuse potential. On November 21, 2016, a Public Health Emergency was initiated in Virginia and currently remains in effect.
Overdose Surveillance Informing Preventive Action in Virginia will enable the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) to enhance its surveillance efforts ensuring: (1) timely, accurate syndromic emergency department data related to suspected overdoses, (2) comprehensive, meaningful descriptions of drug overdose death circumstances and (3) innovative surveillance of linkage to care and other health outcomes representative of the scope and severity of overdose morbidity and mortality in Virginia. The dissemination of these data directly informs and improves state and local prevention efforts through an interdisciplinary, comprehensive and cohesive public health approach in response to the opioid overdose epidemic in Virginia.
The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) will implement key surveillance strategies capable of strengthening timely and comprehensive data. This work will comprise of collection and dissemination of timely Emergency Room Department data and drug descriptions of drug overdose death circumstances; measuring the costs associated with addiction; and retrieving patients lost to care through innovative surveillance.
The Virginia Prescription Monitoring Program will continue to be enhanced through increased interoperability; proactive reporting; and integration. Virginia will continue to build upon its state and local capacity by expanding its workforce in local health districts in prevention and response. Primary prevention efforts will be advanced through the establishment of local Overdose Review Teams. Linkages to care will be advanced through the role of Community Health Workers; use of innovative tools to connect the public with available treatment providers; and the utilization of standardized guidelines for Emergency Departments to avoid loss of patients to care.
Healthcare providers and systems will be supported with education through the Project ECHO® model for improving safer prescribing. Prescribers will be well equipped to prescribe Medication Assisted Treatment for patients at risk for adverse health consequences. Work will be done to understand need and strategies in providing a real-time clinical consultation on opioid dosages and interaction line through the partnership with Virginia’s Poison Control Centers. In an effort to strengthen public health and public safety responses, Virginia will work to understand the feasibility of ODMap implementation across the state to employ a real time opioid overdose detection data platform, driving a collaborative public safety and public health response. Finally, Virginia will continue to empower individuals by increasing the public’s awareness in the risks associated with misuse of opioids by implementing the CDC’s communication strategy campaign “It Takes a little to Lose a Lot”.