Gov. McAuliffe's task force recommends six drug abuse bills

Legislation expected to gain bipartisan support

Gov. Terry McAuliffe is calling for six new pieces of legislation to address existing opiate and heroin abuse regulations. The recommendations, crafted by the task force on Prescription Drug and Heroin Abuse, was announced in a press release Wednesday and will be proposed in the Virginia General Assembly 2015 session.

The bills propose a range of provisions, from granting law enforcement and emergency service officials better access to rescue drugs for overdose and significantly increasing the punishment of drug dealers who are directly implicated in a fatal overdose.

The task force, a bipartisan body established in September, was formed in reaction to a recent increase in opioid and heroin related deaths in Virginia, and is co-chaired by Dr. William A. Hazel, Jr., the secretary of health and human resources, and Brian Moran, the secretary of public health and homeland security.

Hazel and Moran are joined by three representatives from the House of Delegates: John O’Bannon, R- Henrico, minority whip Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria, and Keith Hodges, R-Urbanna. Two state senators — Jennifer Wexton, D-Leesburg, and Bill Carrico, R-Grayson — also join the team.

Moran said the task force is working to address both the legal and health aspects of drug abuse, and he said he anticipates bipartisan support for the bill, as it relies strongly on practical measures.

“I am optimistic that they will be well received on a bipartisan effort,” Moran said. “I do think they will be effective in reducing the number of deaths.”

Hazel said the legislation will save lives if enacted.

“We can save more lives by expanding the naloxone pilot program and getting this safe and effective rescue drug in the hands of those who are first on the scene of an overdose,” Hazel said in a press release.

The task force has until June to coordinate implementation of the recommendations outlined in the different bills.

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