Region sees spike in overdoses

Lauren Cummings

The Northern Shenandoah Valley has now had a record 38 overdose deaths this year, many stemming from the rise of heroin laced with fentanyl.

According to a news release from the Northern Shenandoah Valley Substance Abuse Coalition, there have been 11 reported overdoses and two overdose deaths since Thursday. Lauren Cummings, executive director for the coalition, said that the recent spike in overdoses likely comes as a result of a batch of heroin containing fentanyl.

“Most of our lab results are coming back for fentanyl on our overdose deaths this year, and typically when we have seen an increase — you know, a spike in overdoses — our labs have come back positive for fentanyl,” Cummings said.

In addition to an increase in fatal overdoses, the Northern Shenandoah Valley has also seen an increase in non-fatal overdose cases. So far this year, first responders have administered Narcan, a drug that reverses overdoses, 166 times, according to the news release.

That is a significant increase from last year.

“For all of last year, we had a total of 125 reported non-fatal overdoses for the entire year,” Cummings said. “And of course you see the number we’re at this year.”

Although overdoses this year have already reached record-high levels, Cummings said that the spike in overdoses in the Shenandoah Valley is not as bad as in some nearby areas in Virginia.

“When you actually look at our region and our increase in population compared to other localities, our overdose deaths have actually not gone up as significantly as some of our neighboring localities,” Cummings said.

She said slower rate of increase is a demonstration of the work the coalition has taken to limit the opioid crisis in the region.

“We have a strong coalition that is working to find solutions,” Cummings said. “We’re always looking to increase evidence-based treatment in our area to better serve and better help individuals.”

The news release urged people who have struggled with substance abuse to seek help from the coalition.

“Thanks to the United Way of the Northern Shenandoah Valley, the [Northern Shenandoah Valley Substance Abuse Coalition] is able to offer the peer services free of charge to individuals in the community,” the release states. “If you or someone you know would like to speak to a peer today, please call (540) 325-6000. With a powerful message of hope combined with the experience of success in their own recovery, peer recovery specialists serve as life coaches, extending the clinical reach of treatment and going directly into the lives of people who need them most.”