Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Editorials

June 14, 2014

Heroine task force: Quick action encouraged in Virginia

— — A bipartisan delegation of Virginia lawmakers are correctly calling for the creation of a statewide task force to address the growing heroin epidemic in the Commonwealth. Heroine abuse — once a crime associated just with big cities — is now becoming prevalent in smaller towns, cities and neighborhoods.

That’s why we welcome and strongly encourage the efforts of these 12 Virginia lawmakers to address this problem.

The bipartisan group of legislators, including U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Va., U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., are calling upon Gov. Terry McAuliffe to establish the statewide task force. The lawmakers are correctly expressing concern over the rapid spread of heroin use across the Commonwealth and its devastating impact on Virginia communities.

And the same can certainly be said for neighboring West Virginia. In fact, Tazewell County authorities believe some of the heroine cases they are seeing are coming from across the state line border in West Virginia.

In the letter, they are urging McAuliffe to swiftly address this growing crisis and assemble a statewide task force modeled after the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug/Gang Task Force that confronted gang violence in the Commonwealth.

“We write out of our deep concern about the rapid spread of heroin use — and overdose deaths due to heroin — throughout Virginia over the last year,” the 12 lawmakers said in the letter to McAuliffe. “Not a week goes by without a local newspaper or TV news program in Virginia reporting on the death of yet another heroin addict. Many localities are on track to see double the number of heroin overdose deaths over last year. We urge you to assemble a statewide task force to address the growing heroin epidemic in Virginia.”

According to the Congressional Research Service, heroin use nationally nearly doubled from 2002 to 2012 — including a 79 percent spike from 2007 to 2012 alone. And those numbers do not represent the rapid spread of heroine that has been seen in small communities in recent years.

The group of lawmakers also are asking McAuliffe to take appropriate steps to support law enforcement and communities as they confront the growing heroin threat.

We would expect McAuliffe to act promptly on the formation of the task force while also taking all feasible steps to support law enforcement officials and the individuals communities as they tackle this new threat.

 

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