GLENN ALLEN, Va. -- FBI Director James Comey told a crowd of more than 400 people at Glen Allen High School that the opioid epidemic requires action from a broad range of experts on the local level. Comey was the keynote speaker at the Henrico County Heroin Task Force Wednesday.
“We’re kidding ourselves if we think we’re going to arrest our way out of [the problem], or as much good work that’s been done at our border and as much as we’re going to improve the work, that we’re going to seal it off at the border. Not possible,” Comey said.
The FBI Director said the opioid crisis was initially sparked by the import of cheap heroin and other manufactured opioids by Mexican drug cartels. The grip of the powerfully addictive drugs have fueled an epidemic that impacts people from all backgrounds, according to Comey. He said there is “no profile” of someone who can become addicted.
“It’s not about kids from bad families, or kids from bad schools, or kids who are in trouble with the law, or even kids at all. It is a 'black hole' that sucks all different kinds of people down into it and it is extraordinarily difficult to escape from,” Comey said.
Henrico County health officials said Tuesday there were 47 deaths directly related to heroin or opioid overdose in 2016, a number that represents a 27 percent spike over the previous year. On average, three Virginians die of an opioid overdose every day. Numbers provided by the the Henrico County Sheriff’s Office show a 96-percent increase in possession arrests related to heroin or opioids in recent years.
The spike in overdoes deaths and arrest in Henrico is directly tied to the large amounts of heroin and manufactured opioids, like fentanyl, that are easily accessible and cheap to purchase, according to health officials.
Comey and county officials agreed that a cross-displcine approach to fighting the opioid crisis is key in Henrcio and elsewhere. Law enforcement, health professionals, educators, and advocates must work to address the crisis by using their tools on a local level.
“It’s definitely brought a lot of awareness here today, so I’m hoping that that will help people get off their sofas and involved in their community to help deal with this epidemic,” said Cathy Harkey, the Executive Director of NAMI Virginia, a local non-profit that help people with mental illness.
Henrcio County Manger John Vithoulkas announced to the crowd that leaders plan on investing $200,000 in new funding that will go directly to opioid addiction treatment and prevention.
Comey came to Glen Allen to promote a documentary produced by the FBI and the DEA that shows the true faces of opioid addiction titled “Chasing the Dragon.” Click here to learn more information about the film.