Mental health and substance use are of great concern for many people in our districts. In a recent Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts (RCAHD) newsletter survey about non-COVID health issues, 40% of the 1350 respondents ranked these topics as their top health priority for our community.
We are committed to improving the public’s health through the prevention and treatment of substance abuse including, but not limited to, prevention of overdoses as well as smoking cessation.
Overdose Prevention: RCAHD offers education and resources for overdose prevention through workshops to increase the number of residents who know how to recognize and respond to drug overdoses, as well as through offering naloxone (overdose-reversing medication), fentanyl test strips, and drug disposal kits to residents.
- In partnership with the Office of Emergency Management Services, RCAHD now utilizes a data-mapping software tool to better understand where overdoses are happening in real-time and improve how we support harm reduction and peer recovery program activities.
- The Live Well Alleghany Highlands Substance Use committee supports the Alleghany Highlands Healthy Youth Coalition and activities such as Drug Take Back Day (April 22). Partners have worked together to launch a drug court that supports individuals with substance use disorder in the court system.
- The enormity of substance use challenges means our partnerships with local prevention coalitions such as the Collective Response, Healthy Roanoke Valley Mental Well-Being workgroup, Connection 2 Care, and the EMS Community Risk Reduction workgroup are critical.
While we work with community partners to prevent people from developing substance use disorder (SUD) and encouraging those residents who use drugs to get the support that they need, we are also working to prevent overdose deaths. Opioid overdose-related deaths can be prevented when naloxone is administered in a timely manner. All RCAHD locations offer both naloxone and fentanyl test strips at no cost to residents; simply stop by our office during business hours to pick them up. Naloxone is available as a nasal spray, and it can be administered by anyone with basic training. We encourage all households to consider keeping naloxone in an emergency kit, but the medicine is not a substitute for calling 9-1-1 immediately if you suspect someone may have overdosed.
The health department also offers free 1.5-hour live REVIVE! workshops each month, both in-person and virtual, to educate individuals on SUD and common opioids, how to identify an overdose, and how to administer naloxone to reverse an overdose. Call your local health department office to register for an upcoming session.
Smoking Cessation: Smoking remains the single largest preventable cause of death and disease in the United States, killing more than 480,000 Americans each year. Looking to quit smoking, vaping or using tobacco, or looking to support someone who is trying to quit? Visit the VDH Smoking Cessation webpage or call the quit line, 800-QUIT-NOW, for information and certified confidential coaching at no cost to you.
As with any health condition, it is a strength to acknowledge that a person or a family needs help to deal with substance use and its associated issues. If you or a loved-one is ready to make the call, a national helpline for substance abuse and mental health referrals is available at 800-662-HELP. To learn more about public health efforts, visit our website to sign up for our newsletter at vdh.virginia.gov/Roanoke.
Roanoke City & Alleghany Health Districts
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