April 29, 2021

Virginia Beach Public Safety Agencies, Human Services Department, VB Psych Center Come Together to Form Opioid Treatment Program

Virginia Beach, VA – More people died from drug overdoses than deaths by automobile accidents or gun violence in Virginia in recent years, according to data from the Virginia Department of Health. Opioid overdose deaths were at their highest on record in 2020 with a total of at least 1,909 while 103 of those deaths occurred in Virginia Beach, a sharp increase from 2019's total of 44.

To curb this problem, Commonwealth's Attorney Colin Stolle, Police Chief Paul Neudigate, Department of Human Services Director Aileen L. Smith, and Virginia Beach Psychiatric Center CEO Kurt Hooks announced today the kickoff of "The First Step Program." The program provides those experiencing opioid addiction an opportunity to walk into a police precinct to seek assistance in obtaining treatment, rather than potentially incurring a criminal charge or suffering an overdose.

"We will not arrest our way out of this problem," Commonwealth's Attorney Stolle said. "If we can encourage opioid users to seek help instead of continuing to use these substances, I believe we will save lives, decrease drug-related crime, and make the Virginia Beach community an even safer place to live."

"There is no doubt that the First Step Program will be a valuable resource to those in our community who need it the most," said Police Chief Neudigate. "It is my intent for the Virginia Beach Police Department to proactively help those seeking to overcome their addiction struggles by providing resources and services without the fear of being arrested and prosecuted."

"This partnership offers another avenue to connect the treatment programs that we provide with all members of our community who may be struggling with addiction," said DHS Director Smith. "By providing a safe place to take this first step, we are opening another door for more individuals to reach the services that they need in order to find a pathway to a safe and healthy life."

"It is a privilege for our team at Virginia Beach Psychiatric Center to partner with our Virginia Beach community stakeholders in the First Step Program," said VBPC CEO Hooks. "Substance use problems, just like mental health issues, continue to escalate. The impacts are severe, far-reaching and indiscriminate. The First Step Program acknowledges the reality of drug use across all demographics and the staggering reality of the destructive outcomes on lives, families and communities. Partnering with our community in the First Step Program provides an additional pathway for individuals to get help and healing, continue to work past stigma, and provides an opportunity to foster trust and collaboration in times in which we struggle with division. It is simply the right thing to do."

Specific information about the location for treatment, Frequently Asked Questions, and resources are available on the program's website.

For 24/7 crisis assistance, please call the Pathways Center at (757) 385-6956 or Virginia Beach Psychiatric Center (757) 627-LIFE (5433), and you will receive a free, confidential assessment.

For more information, contact the following individuals from the appropriate agency:

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