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by Bridget Reed Morawski February 20, 2018 at 1:45 pm 0

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

by Bridget Reed Morawski February 20, 2018 at 12:45 pm 0

Arlington Agenda is a listing of interesting events for the week ahead in Arlington County. If you’d like to see your event featured, fill out the event submission form.

Also, be sure to check out our event calendar.

 Tuesday, Feb. 20

Optimal Physical Therapy Open House*
Optimal Physical Therapy (1700 N. Moore Street)
Time: 4-7 p.m.

Meet with physical therapists, enjoy light refreshments, and tour the new Optimal Physical Therapy location at the Rosslyn Metro Center building.

Pet Dental Care 101
Aurora Hills Library (735 18th Street S.)
Time: 5-6 p.m.

Clarendon Animal Care presents an pet oral health lesson. It’s national pet dental health month, so now is as good as ever to learn how to take care of your cat’s bad breath.

Toastmasters Open House
Asahi Restaraunt (2250 Clarendon Boulevard)
Time: 7-8:30 p.m.

An evening dedicated to the organization focused on improving public speaking and leadership skills, where interested potential toastmasters can ask questions and learn more over dinner.

Wednesday, Feb. 21

Introduction to Python
Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street)
Time: 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Learn the Python programming language for free with this beginner’s course aimed at introducing debugging and other software programming fundamentals. Registration is required.

Arlington Committee of 100: Opioid Crisis Conversation*
Marymount University – Phelan Hall (2807 N. Glebe Road)
Time: 7 p.m.

A dinner conversation focused on addressing the opioid crisis’ causes and effects in Arlington, and what the community and officials can do to stop the epidemic. Dinner is $28 for members, $30 otherwise.

 Thursday, Feb. 22

Pups & Pints*
Latitude Apartments (3601 Fairfax Drive)
Time: 6-8 p.m.

Latitude Apartments presents a free happy hour for you and your puppies, with snacks, drinks, and socializing for all. Be sure to check out the puppy photo booth!

Right Proper Beer and Donuts Night at Sugar Shack
Sugar Shack Donuts & Coffee (1014 S. Glebe Road)
Time: 4:30-9:30 p.m.

Right Proper Brewing brings several of their beers — including their cherry-aged Cheree Berliner-Weissenborn — to the donut shop for an evening of beer pairings, paninis, and pastries.

Black Music Matters
Aurora Hills Library (735 18th Street S.)
Time: 7-8 p.m.

Celebrate Black History Month with Katea Stitt, the program director at WPFW-FM 89.3, as she examines black music’s evolution and the impact it has had on social justice initiatives.

 Friday, Feb. 23

Creative Coffee: Ink Washes
Connection: Crystal City (2100 Crystal Drive)
Time: 11 a.m.-12 p.m.

A casual weekly creative meet-up for artists to experiment and improve their work in a social setting. Bring your own materials to this adult-friendly gathering.

St. Agnes Soup Supper*
St. Agnes Catholic Church (1910 N. Randolph Street)
Time: 5:30-7 p.m.

The church will offer meatless soups and a noodle dish, and more every Friday during the Lenten holiday. Guests are invited to stay for confession and the stations of the cross afterwards.

Val Kilmer: Cinema Twain
Arlington Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike)
Time: 7:30 p.m.

Actor and Director Val Kilmer, of Top Gun and Batman Forever, presents a screening on his one-man show, Citizen Twain. Tickets from $30-$75. Through February 24.

Saturday, Feb. 24

Poetry Reading: Douglass & Waters
One More Page Books (2200 N. Westmoreland Street)
Time: 7-8 p.m.

Two award-winning poets — M. Scott Douglass and Jesse Waters, come to the bookstore to read from their books as well as other collections.

Urban Agriculture: Plan & Prepare Your Vegetable Garden
Westover Library (1644 N. McKinley Road)
Time: 10:30 a.m.-12 p.m.

Learn how to bring some gardening techniques to your balcony, roof deck, or larger urban space with the latest installment in the library’s urban agriculture series. This month’s topic will be planning and preparing a vegetable garden. Reservations requested.

Sunday, Feb. 25

A Diana Peterfreund Conversation: Omega City Trilogy
One More Page Books (2200 N. Westmoreland Street)
Time: 3-4 p.m.

Author Diana Peterfreund discusses the final installment of her tween intergalactic adventure series, Omega City. Peterfreund has penned over ten novels for adults, kids, and everyone in between.

* Denotes featured (sponsored) event


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