RICHMOND, VA- Local city and county agencies in the greater Richmond area have partnered together to start Metro Richmond Spike Alert, a system that notifies the general public when spikes in opioid overdoses occur. A spike in overdoses may signify the presence of illegal or diverted prescription drugs in the community that are more potent or more likely to cause an overdose. Informing individuals that may use opioids and their loved ones of a recent spike may prevent injury and death.
Representatives from each locality monitor overdose rates in their area. When a spike is observed, Richmond and Henrico Health Districts (RHHD) will issue an alert to individuals who sign up by email and to the broader community via social media. Individuals who are interested in receiving spike alerts should sign up for the email listserv at rhhd.gov/spikealert or follow the health districts on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.
“In addition to providing notification of a spike, the spike alert offers life saving educational information,” explains Lauren Herschler, Opioid Outreach Coordinator at Chesterfield County Mental Health Support Services. “We want to make sure folks are informed on overdose spikes in the region, what makes a person more vulnerable to overdose, signs of an overdose, how to respond, and where to access free naloxone.”
“This program puts data to use and allows us to help our communities stay safer from overdoses,” says Wayne Harbour, Chief Operating Officer at Richmond Ambulance Authority. “We’re glad to help collect and analyze this data and to do so in collaboration with our neighboring communities… this is an issue that transcends borders.”
“Many families have experienced tragedy from an opioid overdose that could have been prevented,” explains Captain Michael Roth, EMS Supervisor at Henrico County Division of Fire. “Spike alerts provide life saving information that can help prevent these immeasurable losses.”
The importance of this program is preceded by recent increases in overdoses; there were over 430 overdose deaths in 2020 across Richmond City and Henrico, Chesterfield, and Hanover counties. This represents a 40% increase from 2019.
“Opioid overdoses is one of the leading public health crises our communities are experiencing,” says Dr. Melissa Viray, Acting Director at RHHD. “Beyond notification so that individuals can be informed and take precautions, we’re hopeful that this will generally bring more awareness of the opioid epidemic.”
To learn more about opioid overdose prevention, visit rhhd.gov/spikealert.