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ACPD Sounds Alarm After Responding to Three Opioid Overdoses in One Day

After a spike in opioid overdoses this weekend, the Arlington County Police Department is urging residents to take advantage of local substance abuse resources.

On Sunday, ACPD investigated two fatal overdoses and one overdose that left another person in critical condition, according to a news release.

Police said they suspect the overdoses are linked to heroin and prescription painkillers mixed with fentanyl.

“This is a dangerous and potentially life-threatening situation,” the release said. “Due to the severity of these incidents, members of the public who may be affected by addiction or opioid use are urged to take steps to protect themselves and others through available resources in Arlington.”

This year, Arlington first responders have administered nasal Naloxone, also known as Narcan, 31 times to reverse an overdose from prescription painkillers or heroin, according to ACPD.

“Narcan is available over the counter without a prescription,” the release said. “Arlingtonians can request free Narcan and REVIVE (Narcan) training by emailing the Department of Human Services.”

In January, Arlington County received more than $1 million in state and federal grants to help fight the opioid epidemic with more staff and treatment options, as well as more Naloxone kits.

The epidemic continues to ravage Arlington County. After a downturn in 2018 and 2019, last year saw a resurgence in opioid-related overdoses, according to a new ACPD report. The dozens of reported overdoses in 2020 matched the number (74) reported at the peak of the opioid epidemic in 2017.

Officers investigated 20 fatal overdoses and 54 non-fatal overdoses in 2020, more than any other year since it began actively tracking incidents involving opioids in 2014, the report said.

Opioid overdoses in Arlington County (via ACPD)

Officials previously told ARLnow that the pandemic is likely to blame for much of the resurgence.

“There are a lot of reasons why people have relapses,” said Suzanne Somerville, the bureau chief for Residential and Specialized Clinical Services in DHS. “A lot of it does have to do with employment. A lot of our clients… work in the service industry and a lot of them lost their jobs.”

While the battle against addiction continues within the county, Arlington is suing dozens of businesses it alleges are key players in the epidemic. The suit, which seeks $150 million plus punitive damages of $350,000 per defendant, is currently mired in a squabble over where the case should be tried.

More information on overdoses, from the press release, below.

Signs of an Overdose

If you observe someone experiencing the following overdose symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately:

  • Slow or shallow breathing
  • Dizziness or confusion
  • Cold or clammy skin
  • Vomiting or gurgling
  • Blue lips and/or fingernails
  • Not responsive or sleeping and cannot be woken up
  • Deep gurgling or rattling snore

Overdose Reversal

Arlington County first responders carry Nasal Naloxone (also known as Narcan®), a safe and effective medication that can reverse an overdose from prescription painkillers or heroin. Narcan is available over the counter without a prescription. Arlingtonians can request free Narcan and REVIVE (Narcan) training by emailing the Department of Human Services.

Key Contact Information

Emergency: 9-1-1
DHS Substance Use Warm Line: 571-302-0327
Report Information on Narcotics Distribution

Programs and Services

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, there are numerous treatment resources available in Arlington and through the Department of Human Services. Assistance is also available through Operation Safe Station, a designated safe environment where individuals wishing to seek help with their drug use can self-report and receive services, without fear of prosecution and incarceration. Community members are also encouraged to prevent medication misuse or overdose by safely disposing of unused, unwanted or expired prescription medication in one of Arlington’s four permanent drug take-back boxes or by requesting a free deactivation bag.

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