Fentanyl town hall draws crowd

March 31, 2023

Fairfax County Times

By Heather Zwicker

More than 200 people participated in a town hall to discuss fentanyl on March 28 at Lake Braddock Secondary School. The forum was hosted by Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity and School Board Member Laura Jane Cohen. It was also streamed online via Facebook Live.

 Herrity opened the town hall highlighting the disturbing rise in the circulation of fentanyl, a very powerful, often fatal opioid in Fairfax County. And, he acknowledged there is no one solution to this issue, but that it takes “our school system, our police department, our community, CSB (Community Services Board) and the mental health professionals to address this,” he said.

“As we started to see this come into school systems around the country and into ours, the absolute shockingly small amount of this drug that can end your child’s life, it’s terrifying,” said Cohen, who lost her sister to addiction in 2017. She said she and her children have been having a lot of conversations about drugs and the danger of fentanyl in the community.

According to Fairfax County Police, pills are being purchased for $8 to $10 apiece here in Fairfax County and six out of 10 pills contain a lethal dose of fentanyl, whereas a month ago only four out of 10 pills contained a lethal dose.

“Two milligrams of fentanyl is considered a lethal dose,” said Detective Kevin Reynolds. “If you go to your restaurant, sugar packets is one gram, which is 1,000 milligrams so if you think two grams out of that it kind of puts in your mind deadly the substance can be.”

Even though many lives throughout the county have been saved through the administration of naloxone, overdose data shows that more needs to be done to protect the community. 

“Fentanyl is here, it is being put into everything and it only takes a very small amount to kill,” said Herrity. “Awareness saves lives; every parent, every student, and every member of our community should have an understanding of how the opioid crisis has evolved with the circulation of fentanyl.” 

During the meeting participants heard from Nick Yacoub, a peer recovery specialist with the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board told the audience his story. Yacoub has been in recovery since 2007. After spending time in recovery, he had to answer for some legal charges against him and spent a little more than a year in jail which he said was a good thing and he got to mentor other people.

“The meaning and purpose I have today, what recovery has given me the ability to be of service to other people, the ability to show up for myself, the ability to look in the mirror and not hate what’s looking back,” said Yacoub. He said now he’s comfortable in his own skin. “If you are out there and you are struggling or you have a loved one who is struggling, or your child is struggling, there is hope.” 

The town hall included a panel of County experts from the Fairfax County Opioid and Substance Use (OSU) Task Force, Fairfax County Police Department (FCPD), Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board (CSB), and Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) who shared information about drugs and fentanyl in our schools as well as resources for help with addiction. During the presentation, town hall participants were trained in how to administer naloxone, a life-saving opioid reversal drug. At the end of the town hall, all in-person attendees had the opportunity to ask questions and received a usable dose of naloxone. 

Back in 2016 after a couple of deaths in his neighborhood, Herrity hosted an opioid town hall to raise awareness of the dangers of heroin and prescription drug abuse, discuss the steps being taken to address the crisis, and the practical steps that can be taken to reduce the growing epidemic by citizens and their families. As a result of those efforts, the County has a robust array of services and programs addressing this public health crisis.

Resources shared during the town hall are available at https://bit.ly/413nJCz.