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4 new laws to help fight opioid abuse

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RICHMOND, Va. -- Opioid abuse, addiction, and overdose is a public health crisis in Virginia and around the country. Thursday, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe signed four bills into law aimed at fighting Opioid abuse in the Commonwealth.

The new laws include:

SB848 (Wexton) and HB1453 (LaRock) allow community organizations to possess and dispense naloxone to those that they train to use it.

HB2317 (O’Bannon) allows local departments of health to administer harm reduction programs in parts of the state with very high rates of HIV and Hep C. These programs will exchange dirty syringes for clean ones, offer testing for Hep C and HIV, and connect people to addiction treatment.

HB1786 (Stolle) initiates a family assessment and plan of care from local social services if a child is found to have been exposed to substances in utero. This connects the mother to treatment if necessary and provides services to ensure the safety of both the mother and the child.

HB2165 (Pillion) mandates that all opioid prescriptions will be transmitted to pharmacies electronically by 2020 and creates a workgroup to study how to implement this change.

"Abuse of opioids continues to kill Virginians," Governor McAuliffe said. "We recognize that addiction is a disease, not a moral failing, and our proposals for this General Assembly session focused on preventing addiction and providing treatment for those who suffer from it. While our overdose death statistics, sadly, continue to rise, each number represents a family that is suffering. We will use every tool we can get to continue this fight."

The Virginia Department of Health has projected more than 1,000 people died from fatal opioid overdoses in 2016. That that projection holds true, it would represent a 33-percent increase over 2015.