CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- More than 850 people have died in Virginia this year as a result of overdoses, making drug overdoses responsible for more deaths than car accidents, according to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
Chesterfield County has experienced 50 overdoses and 14 deaths since January.
The alarming statistic prompted the Chesterfield Sheriff’s Office to start a recovery program using its own financial resources, and volunteers from addiction recovery organizations, like the McShin Foundation.
The Heroin Addiction Recovery Program, also known as HARP, is a multi-faceted approach to recovery.
Sheriff Karl Leonard felt compelled to start the HARP program, despite little funding and limited resources. Major Ben Craft, who helps oversee the program, said the current way several jails are addressing the heroin problem, is doing little to stop the epidemic.
For Brian Coddington, 29, walking the halls of the Chesterfield County Jail is nothing new. He’s been incarcerated about a dozen times, and most recently served time for possession of heroin.
Coddington became addicted to opiates when he was 17-years-old and began using heroin three years ago. He said the threat of going back to jail was never a deterrent because of the power of his addiction.
“I was so bad in my disease that it didn’t even register to me,” Coddington said. “I got out and got high immediately.”
But in March, Coddington was given the opportunity to take part in a new drug recovery program offered by the Chesterfield Sheriff’s office.
The program includes medical, clinical, peer-to-peer and mental health services for inmates hoping to overcome addiction. HARP also assists inmates in getting professional aftercare when they are released from jail.
Dr. Mantovani Gay, the medical director for the Chesterfield Sheriff’s Office, said the program is designed to give inmates long-term coping strategies to prevent relapses once they’re no longer incarcerated.
“I can detox somebody all day long, but when they get out of here, they’re going back to the same environment,” Gay said.
“You can’t arrest your way out of this,” Craft said. “More people will die, more people will die.”
Craft said the sheriff plans to ask the Board of Supervisors for funding next year, to help continue the 6-month jail recovery program.
Coddington said the experience has changed his life and has given him hope for the future, something he says he’s never had before.
He is asking the court if he can return to finish the program once he’s released from jail.
“They say chase your recovery like you chased your drug,” Coddington said. “And I chased my drug hard.”