By Joe Beck
A letter from most members of Virginia's congressional delegation to Gov. Terry McAuliffe asks him to form a statewide task force in response to the spread of heroin throughout Virginia.
The letter's signers include U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Roanoke, U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Vienna, and Democratic U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner.
The letter includes an attachment from another letter in which Shenandoah County Sheriff Timothy C. Carter asks Wolf to urge state legislators to adopt two legislative proposals sought by members of the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug Task Force Command Board.
Carter is the chairman of the task force, which includes law enforcement officials from Warren, Shenandoah, Frederick, Clarke and Page counties and Winchester.
Carter wrote that lives lost to heroin overdoses, the damaged health of overdose survivors and ensuing law enforcement investigations have placed "an unprecedented strain upon our collective resources, and just as importantly, our task force officers."
Carter's letter called for passage of a law that would require hospitals to report overdose cases to law enforcement agencies.
"The adoption of the law would greatly assist the task force with documenting the overdose incidents and would enhance our ability to identify and prosecute those who are distributing the heroin throughout the region," Carter wrote.
The letter also cited a task force proposal that would eliminate a provision in the state law that currently requires drug case defendants to be present at the time and place of an overdose before prosecutors can charge them with a crime resulting from a drug-related death or illness.
Carter said the task force is also asking that any such an amendment to the law be incorporated into the state's murder statute.
Warren County Sheriff Daniel T. McEathron, who is a member of the task force command board, said in an interview that the board was unanimous in its legislative recommendations.
McEathron also praised the call for a heroin task force, which would be modeled after the region's drug and gang task force.
"Heroin is a true epidemic, and the commonwealth as a whole has to get a handle on it," McEathron said.
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org