The number of Arlingtonians seeking treatment for opioid addiction and related disorders rose from 100 patients in 2015 to 345 patients in 2017, an overall increase of 245 percent, according to Arlington County.
The uptick, detailed in the Arlington County 2017 Annual Report released in January, has spurred the county to implement new treatment approaches for identified opioid-related disorders and addictions.
The police department, unsure of what the best opioid treatment options were to combat the increasing arrests or overdoses, contacted Suzanne Somerville, the county’s residential and specialized clinical services bureau chief.
“We weren’t working together as a county,” said Somerville. She added that departments also weren’t previously coordinating with Virginia Hospital Center but that there is now a monthly meeting with emergency room personnel to discuss frequent treatment or med-seeking patients.
A stakeholders task force was created in January 2017 among multiple county government representatives, non-profit treatment providers and affected families, to develop a plan to address the rising figures, according to Somerville.
In hard numbers, 345 patients in a county of approximately 239,000 isn’t an epidemic. But the 245 percent increase concerns officials — and the figures, Somerville said, may be higher.
“I suspect we always had a much higher number than are seeking treatment here,” said Somerville, later noting that previous data for opioid abusers only counted those seeking treatment through the Dept. of Human Services, not the number of relevant police interactions or even the number of those who are not seeking treatment and haven’t been arrested.
The county finds itself on the doorstep of three communities much more heavily impacted by the nationwide opioid epidemic, according to Somerville: the District of Columbia, West Virginia and more southern areas of Virginia.
“That’s the interesting thing with the opioid crisis, it’s widespread. There’s no socioeconomic division, there’s no race division. It depends on how they start,”she added.
Many opioid abusers initially are prescribed painkillers for medical problems, then later become addicted and switch to a cheaper habit like heroin. In Arlington, it costs approximately $25 for .25 grams of heroin. Oxycontin pills are about $1 per mg; Percocet, $.50 per mg; and Fentanyl, $6.50 per mg.
Arlington officials prefer two methods — a medication assisted treatment (MAT) and an office-based opioid treatment program (OBOT) — over incarceration. The OBOT program combines treatment with naloxone, which is sold under brand names like Narcan and Evzio, with group therapy and peer recovery services.
These peer recovery services take the form of residential intensive treatment homes where patients undergo detox for a minimum of two weeks, but typically up to three months. One Arlington treatment house has the capacity to take 14 patients for up to six months. During this time, patients learn independent living skills and have their sobriety monitored.
One treatment center is in Ballston and another is elsewhere in northern Arlington, though Somerville declined to be more specific, saying that both locations are inconspicuous.
The treatment centers are completely voluntary, but only two patients chose jail over drug court in 2017. Those who opt for jail face at least two years in prison, with terms varying depending on criminal history and individual circumstances. Drug court comprises of supervisory components like GPS anklet monitoring.
“There are some cases where that is not going to work out,” added the bureau chief. “If the police feel that a person has distribution, there probably wouldn’t be something we could do to divert, but we are looking to come up with options at the time of bond or sentencing to say that this person would benefit from treatment as opposed to straight incarceration.”
Photo via Eric Norris/Flickr
Update at 4 p.m. — Arlington County Police released the following press release Friday afternoon.
At approximately 9:00 a.m. on February 9, police responded to Yorktown High School for the report of a CPR in progress. Upon arrival, it was determined that a student was located unresponsive in a restroom. Arlington County Fire Department medics transported the student to Virginia Hospital Center in critical condition. [Redacted]
This remains an active investigation however, there is no known threat to the school community. The Arlington County Police Department requests that anyone with information regarding this incident contact Detective R. Munizza at 703.228.4171 or [email protected] To report information anonymously, contact the Arlington County Crime Solvers at 866.411.TIPS (8477).
If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, you are not alone. Help is available through the Crisis Link Hotline at 703-527-4077.
(Updated at 11:20 a.m.) A letter has gone out to Yorktown High School families this morning after a student was found collapsed in a restroom at the end of first period.
A school nurse attended to the student while staff contacted emergency services. Passerby told ARLnow.com that a large number of emergency vehicles were parked outside the school but that the streets weren’t closed off.
Bridget Loft, Yorktown’s principal, wrote that a student has been transported to a nearby hospital for treatment. Initial reports from police suggested the medical condition could be life-threatening.
At approximately 9:00 AM police responded to Yorktown High School for the report of a CPR in progress. Medics transported one juvenile to the hospital in critical condition. Police remain on scene investigating. There is no known threat to the school community.
— ArlingtonCountyPD (@ArlingtonVaPD) February 9, 2018
The student’s family has been notified, and additional counselors are available on-site for distressed students.
Loft noted in her letter that the school had been placed on a “modified secure” status. Police are investigating the incident and will be present at Yorktown throughout the day.
Here’s the full letter that was sent out this morning to families:
Dear Yorktown Families:
I wanted to let you know that a student was found at the end of first period collapsed in a restroom. Our school nurse responded and staff immediately called 911. The Arlington County Fire Department arrived to provide medical aid to the student who was eventually transported to the Virginia Hospital Center. While this was happening, the student’s family was notified, and the school was placed on modified secure the building status.
At this point, I don’t have any other details to share. Our main focus at this time is on the student and family. Once details that we can share are available, we will pass them along.
We will have additional counselors available in the office, should your student need to talk with someone. I want to ensure you that there is no risk to students and staff, but we also wanted to let you know that police will remain at the school throughout the day to investigate what happened.
I want to thank our students and staff for the way that they handled the incident this morning. If you have any questions, please feel free to call the school at 703-228-5400.
Bridget Loft, Principal
The crash happened around 12:30 p.m. in the area of Boundary Channel Drive. A 911 caller reported that the man was unconscious but breathing and that smoke was coming from the hood of his SUV.
Virginia State Police were the first on scene and were assisted by Arlington County officers in shutting down a highway ramp and several lanes during the emergency response. A number of witnesses appear to have pulled over to help before police arrived.
The man was transported by medics to George Washington University Hospital with what were reported to be minor injuries, according to scanner traffic. The closed lanes have since reopened.
Race organizers shortened the course mid-way through the race, citing safety concerns amid unusually warm and humid conditions for an October day, WJLA reported. Sunday was “Washington’s sultriest October day ever recorded,” according to the Capital Weather Gang.
ACFD evaluated or treated a total of 145 patients and transported 34 to local hospitals, mostly due to heat-related incidents, Capt. Ben O’Bryant told ARLnow.com.
The fire department had staged two medic units on scene, with utility vehicles to transport stricken runners from the course, but called in an additional six ambulances around 9:30 a.m., O’Bryant said. The ambulance bus was called in shortly thereafter.
O’Bryant described the response as a “strike force” response, one level below a mass-casualty incident. All of the sirens were enough to attract the attention of Crystal City residents, one of whom took to Twitter to ask about it.
We are responding to medical emergencies around the Army 10 Miler as well as other emergencies in the area.
— Arlington Fire (@ArlingtonVaFD) October 8, 2017
During the incident five ambulances from Fairfax, Alexandria and Reagan National Airport filled in as mutual aid at Arlington fire stations, said O’Bryant.
Last year, during much cooler weather, ACFD only transported five Army Ten Miler runners to Virginia Hospital Center, he said.
Photo via John Sonderman/Flickr. Hat tip to Jim H.
VT Says It Is Behind ‘Driverless’ Van — The “driverless” van seen driving around Clarendon over the past week was actually a Virginia Tech research project designed to record the “real world reactions” to a vehicle without a driver. However, there was a driver: a man dressed as a car seat. The mystery was solved in real time on Twitter yesterday and quickly went viral. [NBC Washington, Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, Twitter]
Retired Colonel Saved By Quick-Acting EMS Crew — Firefighters and EMS personnel from Arlington and Alexandria helped to save the life of a retired U.S. Army colonel who went into cardiac arrest in his home in Crystal City. The crew used defibrillators to revive him. [Facebook, WJLA]
High Water Bills Prompt Questions — A number of Arlington residents say their quarterly water bills for the summer and fall spiked to inconceivably high levels, in some cases in excess of $2,000. The county government, however, says no systemic billing issues have been found and blames the high bills on hot and dry weather combined with homeowners irrigating their yards. [InsideNova]
News Photog Saved By Arlington Medic — WUSA9 photographer Dion Wiggins suffered a massive heart attack while shooting video of traffic along I-395 last month. It was an Arlington County paramedic, Chris Abrahams, who together with firefighter Jason Griffith revived Wiggins from cardiac arrest, stabilized him and transported him to George Washington University Hospital. Wiggins is now back at home and on the road to recovery. [WUSA9]
ACPD: Don’t DUI After the Super Bowl — Super Bowl Sunday is two days away and the Arlington County Police Department is reminding residents to designate a driver for the big game. The Super Bowl is one of the biggest days of the year for DUI, with a third of all U.S. traffic deaths due to drunk drivers. [Arlington County]
D.C. Metro Work This Weekend — Major scheduled track work will close six downtown D.C. Metro stations along the Blue, Orange and Silver lines this weekend. The Blue and Orange lines will be split in two and the Silver line will end at Ballston. “Customers traveling between Virginia and DC are encouraged to use the Yellow Line, if possible,” Metro says. [WMATA]
Kudos for Sheriff’s Office — “The Arlington County Sheriff’s Office has been awarded reaccreditation by the American Correctional Association Commission (ACA), whose standards are the national benchmark for the effective operation of correctional facilities in the United States.” [Arlington County]
WHS Swimmers in Regionals — “With three Wakefield swimmers heading off to regionals — the most in recent history — the Wakefield community is overflowing with enthusiasm and excitement in anticipation of a splashing victory.” [Wakefield Chieftain]
Obit: Mel Labat — Long-time Arlington tennis coach Mel Labat passed away last week. A memorial service will be held tomorrow (Saturday). A scholarship fund has been established, with the proceeds going to the Arlington Youth Tennis Program. [YMCA, Legacy]
Flickr pool photo by Alan Kotok
Working on the railroad is hard work.
That was in evidence this morning when a Metro contractor who was on the team performing “SafeTrack” maintenance work on the tracks near the East Falls Church station reportedly passed out from dehydration.
Firefighters and paramedics responded to the section of track along I-66 and transported the worker to a local hospital for evaluation.
Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said the agency is taking steps to make sure its workers are well hydrated.
“Obviously, this is hard, physical labor on a hot and cloudless day,” Stessel told ARLnow.com. “We are providing water and sports drinks to all workers on site, and requiring frequent breaks — but the lack of shade is really the issue.”
Metro is describing the incident as a “medical emergency.” A Twitter user said a woman walked off the platform and onto the tracks.
“Lady just walked smooth off the platform onto the tracks at Ballston station right in front of me,” said @Durrrius.
Fire department radio traffic indicates that the patient has been removed from the tracks and is now being treated by medics.
Metro says that trains are again moving through the station, with residual delays in both directions.
The incident happened just after 5:00 p.m., at the private Dominion Hills Area Recreation Association pool at 6000 Wilson Blvd.
An 8 or 9 year old boy accidentally swallowed water while swimming and began struggling in the water, according to an Arlington County Fire Department spokesman. A lifeguard spotted the boy in distress and he was underwater by the time lifeguards reached him.
When the boy was pulled from the water, he had a pulse but was unconscious and not breathing, the spokesman said. Lifeguards performed rescue breathing and were eventually able to revive the boy, we’re told.
Paramedics arrived and transported the boy to Virginia Hospital Center for evaluation.
John Aldonis, the pool’s manager, declined to identify the lifeguards who saved the boy’s life but said they are local high school and college students.
“They did a great job,” Aldonis said. “They did everything correctly and followed the Red Cross protocols.”
Aldonis said this was the first time in recent memory that paramedics had to be called to the Dominion Hills pool for a life-threatening emergency.
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
A crew responding to a medical emergency at the Whitmore apartments (4301 Columbia Pike) attended to the patient, who needed to be transported to the hospital. But they got stuck in the elevator on the way to the ambulance. A second engine crew initially was called to assist, but the crew already on scene managed to free the people in the elevator.
ACFD deputy fire marshal Brian McGraw said the impact to the patient was minimal because the stuck elevator delayed the medical workers for less than five minutes. He said medics were equipped to continue caring for the patient inside the elevator while they waited to be freed.
“It’s not a frequent issue,” said McGraw. “But from a patient care perspective, whenever we put a patient in an elevator, we have sufficient personnel and resources to render the care they need inside the elevator.”
McGraw would not comment on the nature of the patient’s medical emergency, but scanner traffic referred to the patient’s status as “priority 1,” which typically indicates someone with a life-threatening condition. The person was transported to Virginia Hospital Center.
Arlington County’s ambulance bus — typically used for mass casualty situations — was utilized this afternoon to transport a patient who reportedly weighed more than 600 pounds.
The ambulance bus and two additional ambulance crews were dispatched to the Cherrydale Health & Rehabilitation Center (3710 Lee Highway) to help take the man to the hospital around 3:15 p.m.
The man was suffering from an elevated temperature and a chronic infection, according to fire department radio traffic.