Hope dominates at local vigil for those lost to opioids
We’re starting to treat it as a public health problem. We need to ensure as a community we provide safe places for all who seek help.
— Powell Duggan, keynote speaker
Despite Fauquier County’s continuing death toll in the battle against opioid abuse, they expressed hope and spoke movingly of changing attitudes.
About 125 people gathered at a vigil Wednesday night on Warrenton’s Courthouse Square to remember those who’ve lost their lives to heroin and other drugs.
His office so far this year has investigated 39 opioid overdoses and 13 resulting deaths, Sheriff Bob Mosier told the crowd.
“We’re starting to treat it as a public health problem,” said former Warrenton Mayor Powell Duggan, the vigil’s keynote speaker. “We need to ensure as a community we provide safe places for all who seek help.”
Mr. Duggan spoke of his struggles to deal with the March 2015 overdose death of his 38-year-old son Dan.
“I remember all too well the day 12 years ago when Dan confided in me about his addiction . . . and the day 3-1/2 years ago, when he died,” the local lawyer said. “As a parent, you wonder, ‘What could I have done differently? . . . Why was Dan in this position?’ ”
Mr. Duggan added: “There are things I didn’t know then that I know now.”
He seemed to speak for the community, which has grown much more supportive of the effort to save addicts and to support their families.
A reporter from Denmark, researching a story on the epidemic in the U.S., recently interviewed him. During the interview, Mr. Duggan asked the journalist whether Denmark has a similar problem.
“ ‘No,’ ” the reporter replied. “ ‘You leave the hospital with a whole lot of Advil’,” not a month’s worth of narcotics, Mr. Duggan said.
Sheriff Mosier said his deputies will continue to arrest those who traffic in drugs but also will attempt to help them lead productive lives after incarceration. He described a six-step process for the community:
• “Acknowledgement of the problem.”
• “Assessment to get (addicts) to solutions.”
• “Detoxification. There has to be a process to rid the body of the chemicals.”
• “Therapy.” He mentioned the range of groups working in Fauquier with addicts.
• “Abstinence. You’re using, you’re clean or you’re in jail.”
Survivors — mostly parents of addicts who’ve died — organized the second such vigil in Warrenton. The first took place two years ago.
“Together, we can fact this a lot better than facing it alone,” said Caroline Folker, one of the organizers.