By Leonard E. Colvin
New Journal and Guide
During the 1980s and ‘90s, cocaine and its street derivative crack, were targeted as the chief enemy of the nation’s War on Drugs.
Thousands of individuals, notably men in the Black community, were jailed for the use and distribution of the two. Also, the police had to deal with overdoses from heroin which can be deadly.
But now the deadly opioid Fentanyl has replaced both crack and cocaine as the main concern of law enforcement, the courts and the health care networks.
Instead of crack being the leading cause of arrest of African-Americans for illicit drugs, Fentanyl along with gun violence have become the leading cause of death of Black men and women.
Small doses of Fentanyl directly or laced with other substances can cause an overdose and, if not treated quickly – death.
State and local officials are recording an increasing number of deaths by overdose related to the deadly drug consumed in even tiny doses.
Starting this week, the Norfolk Community Service Board is hosting a series of Opioid Abatement Listening Sessions to get residents’ feedback on effective and inclusive solutions, treatment options, and recovery resources.
The initial session was held at the Southside Girls and Boys Club.
The second at the Lambert’s Point Community Center.
On October 3 there will be a session at the Pretlow Anchor Library from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.; on October 5 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Norview Community Center; and on October 11, there will be a Virtual Town Hall Webex from 4 to 6:30 p.m..
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC), there were more than 2,500 drug overdose deaths in Virginia in 2021 and approximately 75 percent were due to opioids.
Information recently obtained by the City of Norfolk, showed of the 213 cases recorded involving Fentanyl overdoses, 101 were fatal, with 112 were non-fatal.
Thus far, as of late September, there are 125 related Fentanyl overdoses in the City of Norfolk with 51 being fatal and 74 nonfatal.
Also, so far this year, of the eight deadliest illegal street drugs out there, Fentanyl has caused the highest number of overdose deaths at 51, Heroin is tied with prescription drugs with one death. There are eight other deaths where determination of the cause as being drug-related is still being determined.
There were incidents of fatal overdoses affecting all ages ranging from 19 to 85, with the 31-35 age range having the highest and the 19-25 range coming in second. Four cases were recorded for people in the 61 to 85 age range.
Most of the victims thus far this year have been men, 35, and women, 16.
Historically, white males regularly had the highest rates of fatal opioid overdoses in Virginia. In 2019, however, Black males had the highest rate of fatal opioid overdoses in the Commonwealth. In 2022 Black males fatally overdosed on Fentanyl 1.9 times as often as white males.
Their same rate could continue this year, state health officials say.
In Norfolk so far this year, 30 African-American men of varying ages have died from Fentanyl overdoses and 20 were white men.
Overall, the state saw a 35 percent increase in overdose deaths between June 2021 and June 2022. Fentanyl deaths increased 20-fold since 2013 and just last year (2022), 1,951 Virginians died from Fentanyl.
Unlike the crack and cocaine problems of the past, the incidents today involving Fentanyl are treated as healthcare emergencies and victims and families are not subject to arrest.
The Norfolk Police Department (NPD) categorizes overdose calls for service as life-threatening medical emergencies; therefore, overdoses are responded to by both the Norfolk Police and Fire-Rescue Departments. In the City of Norfolk, police personnel are properly trained and authorized to carry and administer naloxone to individuals who are overdosing.
While NPD Investigators track the reported fatal and non-fatal overdoses for data purposes; those reporting overdoses to 911 can do so without fear of arrest or prosecution.
All of the sessions are open to everyone, especially individuals in recovery, families of those impacted by opioid use disorders, peers, allies, service providers, and law enforcement.
By participating in these sessions, residents can share personal experiences, contribute to community-driven solutions, and make a lasting impact.
Residents may attend one or all sessions and registration is preferred but not required.
Find registration links and more information about the Opioid Abatement Community Input Sessions by visiting www.norfolk.gov/communityinput.
Photo by cottonbro studio