McAuliffe signs two anti-heroin bills

City of Alexandria delegate Charniele Herring, left, applauds with a host of other supporters as Governor Terry McAuliffe, right, completed signing new legislation Tuesday afternoon regarding public safety workers administering naltrexone and doctors being able to screen patients' prescribed medications. Rich Cooley/Daily

WINCHESTER — The area’s efforts to counter the opiate drug epidemic received some high profile support from Gov. Terry McAuliffe in a bill signing ceremony at the county public safety building Tuesday.

McAuliffe signed two bills, including one that lifts potential legal obstacles to public safety personnel administering a drug used to counter the effects of heroin. The other bill makes it easier for doctors and pharmacists to determine whether an individual has been trying to obtain several prescriptions of the same drug at the same time from different medical professionals.

McAuliffe said he receives weekly updates on the toll of heroin and other opiate drugs around the state, adding that the trouble is spread among different age groups.

“I get a list of arrests and other things that happened in public safety around the commonwealth,” McAuliffe said, “and it is sad when I turn the page every single week and you see the list of heroin abuse and then you look at the folks who have died, 22, 23, 41. “There’s not a week that goes by that it’s not in my report, and it’s sad, and it’s time that we do something about it.”

The number of overdoses, many of them fatal, led McAuliffe to convene a task force last year that studied the drug problem and made recommendations for legislative action. The two bills he signed stem from some of those recommendations.

Jan Brown, executive director of a peer led recovery organization in Williamsburg, speaks of her drug addiction during Governor Terry McAuliffe's signing of heroin and prescription drug legislation at the Frederick County Public Safety Building on Tuesday. Rich Cooley/Daily

Under the provisions of one bill, firefighters and law enforcement officers who have completed proper training can possess and administer Naloxone or similar drugs to overcome the effects of opiates on overdose victims. The bill also bars lawsuits alleging negligence against firefighters, law enforcement officers and other members of emergency medical service agencies who administer Naloxone “in good faith” during overdose emergencies.

The other bill signed by McAuliffe is intended to ease the registration and regulation of prescribers and dispensers of prescription drugs with the state’s Prescription Monitoring program. The program was created to prevent addicts from obtaining more prescriptions than deemed necessary for treatment of legitimate medical conditions.

Jan Brown, a long-term recovering addict from Williamsburg, told the audience at the bill signing that it has been 28 years since she was “hopelessly addicted to alcohol, cocaine, opiates and any other drugs I could get my hands on.”

Brown said “proper medication, effective treatment and ongoing support services” were the keys to halting her drug use.

“I’m living proof when all of those interventions are brought to bear lives are saved, families are restored and communities thrive,” Brown said.

Governor Terry McAuliffe, left, chats with Senator Jill Vogel, center, and Mark Merrill, right, President and CEO of Valley Health, during his appearance Tuesday at the University's new Health and Science Building. The event was sponsored by the Top of Virginia Chamber of Commerce. Rich Cooley/Daily

McAuliffe’s bill signing was the second in a series of stops that began with a chamber of commerce breakfast at Shenandoah University.

McAuliffe touted his “new economy” initiatives that aim to increase the state’s ability to lure jobs from other states or nations and encourage the formation of new businesses.

McAuliffe cited the recent reopening of a long-defunct furniture manufacturing plant in Appomattox County as a successful example of his efforts. McAuliffe said a subsidiary of a Chinese-owned company committed to the project after he met with them in Beijing last year.

The plant, which will be making industrial environmental control components used to limit air pollution, will sell its products back to China, McAuliffe said.

“When I’m talking about the new economy, folks, that’s what I’m talking about,” McAuliffe told the audience of about 200.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com

Governor Terry McAuliffe, right, chats with Shenandoah University president Tracey Fitzsimmons, left, during his appearance Tuesday at the Univeristy's new Health and Science Building. The event was sponsored by the Top of Virginia Chamber of Commerce. Rich Cooley/Daily

Governor Terry McAuliffe, right, chats with Shenandoah University president Tracy Fitzsimmons, left, during his appearance Tuesday at the University's new Health and Science Building. The event was sponsored by the Top of Virginia Chamber of Commerce. Rich Cooley/Daily

Governor Terry McAuliffe speaks during an appearance Tuesday morning at Shenandoah University Health and Science Building sponsored by the Top of Virginia Chamber of Commerce. Rich Cooley/Daily