Declaration of Public Health Emergency

WHEREAS, the increasing trend of drug addiction in Virginia is contributing to multiple adverse public health effects, including but not limited to increasing numbers of blood borne pathogen infections (e.g., Hepatitis C),  overdoses requiring emergency care, and deaths; and

WHEREAS,  the continually increasing problem of injection drug use in Virginia is making communities vulnerable to outbreaks of infectious diseases such as Hepatitis C and HIV,  and is placing Virginians at risk for overdose and death related to drug use; and

WHEREAS, the Virginia Department of Health, Office of Epidemiology  reports that the number of emergency department visits for heroin overdose for January-September 2016 increased 89% compared to the same nine month period in 2015; and

WHEREAS, the Virginia Department of Health, Office of the Chief Medical Examiner reports that the total number of fatal drug overdoses in Virginia during the first half of 2016 increased 35% over the first half of 2015, with fatal drug overdoses becoming the number one method of unnatural death in 2013, and fatal drug overdoses becoming the leading cause of accidental death in Virginia in 2014; and

WHEREAS, the rate of reported cases of Hepatitis C (HCV) increased 28% between 2010 and 2015, with the primary risk factor being injection drug use; and

WHEREAS, in November 2016,  eight Virginia counties (Buchanan, Lee, Patrick, Dickenson, Wise, Wythe, Russell, and Tazewell) were identified by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as being among the 220 counties, or the top 5%,  in the nation that are most vulnerable to an HIV/HCV outbreak; and

WHEREAS, drug treatment center admissions for both heroin and non-heroin opioids in Virginia reached a five-year high in 2012; and

WHEREAS, the Virginia Department of Health, Office of Emergency Medical Services  reports that from January 2014-March 2016, a total of 10,676 patients received naloxone administered by emergency medical services agencies in Virginia, of which at least 53% of the patients demonstrated improvement, suggesting that opioid effects were contributing to the condition of these patients; and

WHEREAS, pursuant to § 32.1-13 of the Code of Virginia, the State Board of Health is authorized to make separate orders and regulations, not provided for by general regulations, for the purpose of suppressing nuisances dangerous to the public health and communicable, contagious and infectious diseases and other dangers to the public life and health; and

WHEREAS, pursuant to §32.1-20 of the Code of Virginia, the State Health Commissioner is vested with all of the authority of the Board of Health when it is not in session;

NOW THEREFORE, the State Health Commissioner hereby declares that a public health emergency resulting from opioid addiction exists in the Commonwealth, affecting the health and safety of Virginians.

This Declaration shall be effective November 21, 2016 and shall remain in full force and effect until amended or rescinded.

Given under my hand and under the Seal of the Office of the State Health Commissioner of the Commonwealth of Virginia this November 21, 2016.



Marissa J. Levine, MD, MPH, FAAFP
State Health Commissioner