Community organizations continue to look for solutions for Roanoke’s ongoing opioid crisis

ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) – Roanoke community organizations are working on solutions and strategies to address the ongoing opioid crisis in the Valley.

As overdose numbers continue to rise, organizations like the Council of Community Services Drop In Center North are ramping up their outreach programs. The center’s harm reduction manager explained the main concern is preventing fatal outcomes from fentanyl.

“A lot of longtime people that use drugs are experiencing an overdose for the first time,” Lisa Via said. “Drugs are so much different than they were a year ago or even six months ago.”

Fentanyl testing strips, Narcan and education programs are some of the center’s harm reduction techniques.

“People’s mental health is declining because they are losing their housing,” Via said. “The drug supply is different and people are getting addicted in a different way.”

Other advocates, like the director of the Roanoke Valley Collective Response, explained how the affordable housing crisis is worsening the opioid crisis.

“The lack of affordable housing in Roanoke and the rise in rents and the destabilization since COVID has definitely increased people’s mental unwellness stress,” Niles Comer said. “Sadly, when we become more stressed, as a society, we tend to practice very maladaptive behaviors.”

Another solution is adding a network of peer specialists in Roanoke to help those in active addiction get on the road to recovery. Peer specialists are community members who have overcome their own addiction and are now certified to help others in need.

“When people with lived experience walk alongside those entering the process of recovery, there’s a higher chance and a higher percentage that those folks will stay in the recovery process,” Comer said.

Roanoke Valley’s Collective Response is starting to put peer specialists into action to curb the ongoing opioid crisis. A $1.4 million grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) will fund peer recovery specialists to work with Roanoke’s first responders in the coming months.

“This crisis is bad,” Comer said. “But there are a lot of great things happening in Roanoke.”

Those looking for help and resources can call SAMHSA’s national help hotline at 1-800-662-4357.


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