I want to thank the Fauquier Times for publishing the recent articles featuring the opioid crisis facing not only the nation, but also Fauquier County. Keeping continued, comprehensive coverage before your readership is a service to our community. Heroin addiction is a public health crisis, not just a health concern and it cannot be resolved by simply “arresting our way out of it.”
Make no mistake about it, the Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office will continue to arrest those who violate the law involving illegal drugs. We will also continue to work with our Commonwealth Attorney’s Office and U.S. Attorney’s office as they continue to prosecute these violations. However, that just is not enough in tackling this crisis. We have to continue to promote public awareness and educate in a multitude of ways. We have to focus on prevention, address recovery and prepare those in recovery, with their re-introduction into society.
The Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office has adjusted its response on how to best handle this opioid crisis. When I was elected sheriff in the fall of 2015, I knew the former methods simply would not work for this escalating problem.
Initially, upon taking office, we were successful in partnering with the PATH Foundation in receiving grant money to purchase naloxone, more commonly known as Narcan. Narcan saves lives of individuals who have overdosed on opioids. At that time, we immediately trained 100 percent of our personnel in the use of Narcan through a training program “Revive,” sponsored by the Virginia Department of Behavior Health and Developmental Services.
Exposure to heroin laced with fentanyl or carfentanil presents a clear and present danger to those in addiction, as well as to law enforcement personnel and the K-9s that perform drug searches. In an effort to minimize potential impact, field testing is no longer performed, but all of our deputies carry Narcan in the event of an exposure. The “Revive” program has saved many lives and will continue to save more lives.
We have developed a proactive approach that addresses prevention and recovery, in addition to enforcement. Our prevention-enforcement-recovery approach deals with all aspects of the crisis that threaten our way of life in Fauquier County.
In addressing prevention, we are actively working in conjunction with the Fauquier County public school system, to make awareness programs available for our youth and their parents. The School Resource Officers assist with programs and develop positive relationships with students. “Operation Prevention” sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Association educates students about the true impacts of opioids and kick-starts lifesaving conversations in the home and classroom. “Hidden in Plain Sight” is one of our new initiatives, which educates parents in what to look for when individuals may be using illegal drugs.
In implementing enforcement, we increased staffing in our Special Operation Unit, specifically for narcotics/interdiction/enforcement. This has augmented the interaction with patrol deputies, police K-9s and SOU detectives.
Please note, overdose cases are no longer looked at as merely medical occurrences. In every overdose case where the FCSO is notified and where Narcan is used to save a life, a deputy responds to interview the drug user and begins collaboration with our SOU.
We are members of the Blue Ridge Narcotics and Gang Task Force, which participates in drug investigations and interdiction operations. We work with the Northern Virginia Regional Gang Task Force to implement gang prevention, intervention and educational programs within our region.
Another important partnership includes the DEA, which assists in identifying violators in Fauquier County. We are actively engaged with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. These agencies have proven to be successful in broadening the range of our ability to effectively identify, fight and reduce criminal activity.
We also work closely with our lawmakers, whether making presentations to the General Assembly or briefing members of congress, town and county officials on cases in which we are actively involved.
Four years ago, we collaborated in the formation of The Travis Project, aimed at coordinating community efforts to combat the heroin epidemic. We are advisors to non-governmental organizations, which support local prevention programs, as well as connect those in addiction to available resources for recovery. Community Resources United to Stop Heroin and Come As You Areare groups that support recovery programs. We continue to collaborate with Celebrate Recovery, a faith-based program, and Alcoholics Anonymous to deal with those individuals who struggle with addictions.
One of our more recent alliances is with the Rappahannock-Rapidan Community Services Board, which provides medically assisted treatment for inmates. The CSB has made the drug Vivitrol available to certain area detention facilities in Virginia, one of which is the Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office Adult Detention Center. Jim LaGraffe, CSB director, has been instrumental in helping set up our program in the ADC. We have a certified nurse, who works in conjunction with our new mental health counselor to help those dealing with addictions while incarcerated. All medications are prescribed by a doctor.
We recognize that once inmates go through recovery, which includes counseling, that we have to assist them in integrating back into the community. The Sheriff’s Office is working with companies that are willing to provide jobs for these individuals and other groups that will help with the logistics of housing and transportation.
The Sheriff’s Office has come a long way in a few years in addressing this crisis that affects all of our lives. While a lot has been done, there is much more to do. The men and women of the Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office, and your sheriff care deeply about this community and we all work diligently to keep our community safe.
Robert P. Mosier