Virginia Beach city leaders create new program designed to combat deadly opioid problem

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Posted at 3:44 PM, Apr 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-30 10:57:01-04

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Virginia Beach city leaders have created a new program to help the opioid addiction problem in the city.

Thursday afternoon, Commonwealth’s Attorney Colin Stolle, Police Chief Paul Neudigate, Department of Human Services Director Aileen Smith and Kurt Hooks, CEO of the Virginia Beach Psychiatric Center, announced a new partnership to the media.

It’s call the First Step Program, and it's a partnership between city resources. A person with an opioid problem can go to a police precinct and say they would like to be screened by DHS Pathways Center to determine if they need medical detox or should be referred to another resource.

They say depending on the level of need, the person may get transportation from police, EMS or taxi to the Pathways Center, Virginia Beach Psychiatric Center or Sentara.

They said there have been 1,909 opioid overdose deaths in the state in 2020. There were 103 in the City of Virginia Beach last year compared to 44 in 2019.

“It’s almost insurmountable. It appears it has doubled in terms of when the pandemic started,” Smith said of the current statistics.

“We’re trying to make a difference or trying to simplify way the way the people who are suffering from addiction can get the help,” said Stolle.

They said those who are experiencing an opioid addiction can go to any of the four police precincts and ask for help. They will not face criminal charges unless they have an outstanding warrant.

They said if there are active warrants, they must be served on individuals who appear at a police precinct, but after it has been served, people can still get treatment if they don’t need to be taken into custody.

“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.”

Related: Local mom shares heartbreaking story of losing daughter to deadly, troubling trend of overdose deaths

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

The program starts May 1.

People wanting help or families members who are looking to get help for a loved one can go to any of the following four precincts:

  • VBPD 1st: 2509 Princess Anne Road
  • VBPD 2nd: 820 Virginia Beach Blvd.
  • VBPD 3rd: 926 Independence Blvd.
  • VBPD 4th: 5152 Lobaugh Drive