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January 26, 2018

County will host opioid crisis “retreat” Feb. 16

File Photo/Lawrence Emerson
People gather for a Warrenton vigil in 2016 to remember those who died of drug overdoses.
This is a difficult issue. Addicts’ brains aren’t all alike. Treatment options are different; the effectiveness of them is different.
— Warrenton Mayor Powell Duggan
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Staff Journalist
He expects next month’s half-day retreat to answer range of “big questions” related to Fauquier’s opioid addiction problems.

“I think what everybody wants to know is: What are the various types of overdoses that are happening monthly, quarterly, annually in the county?” Supervisor Chris Granger (Center District) said. “Who’s working on treatment? From a nonprofit and governmental side, what kind of resources are there? What’s missing?”

The sheriff’s office and town police department documented 104 drug overdoses during 2017.

Established by county government, a seven-member “working group” will meet noon to 4 p.m. Friday, Feb. 16, at the Warren Green Building in Warrenton to discuss those and other addiction issues, said Mr. Granger, who serves on the panel.

“The board of supervisors wanted to get a better understanding of all the services being used for addiction throughout the county, whether it be government — the role of the courts, probation, the magistrate – or non-government,” he said.

Besides county government, the group’s members represent the Town of Warrenton, PATH Foundation, Rappahannock-Rapidan Community Services and Richmond-based McShin Foundation.

McShin’s controversial proposal to open a 14-bed addiction recovery program at 30 John Marshall St. in downtown Warrenton drew considerable attention to Fauquier’s opioid problems.

Citing zoning and the comprehensive plan, the town council on Jan. 9 unanimously denied McShin’s special permit application for the proposed 28-day, overnight recovery program.

Partly because of overwhelming public support for the project and concerns about opioid overdoses, the council and the board of supervisors pledged to work with other government agencies and groups to address addiction recovery issues, including treatment.

Among other things, Mr. Granger hopes the retreat will produce “clear direction for at least the board of supervisors about where we need to partner and focus efforts on addressing recovery.”

Fauquier’s contribution to the effort ultimately could entail providing the “location or facilities” for organizations that treat addicts, he said.

The February retreat likely will be the first of several meetings, Mr. Granger suggested.

“I think you’re going to end up with a working group that’s going to be around for a while,” he said. “We’re asking for a lot of information and we’re trying to see where it takes us.”

Only so much can be accomplished during a four-hour meeting, said Warrenton Mayor Powell Duggan, a member of the working group.

“I think that’s the beginning of the conversation,” Mr. Duggan said of the retreat.

“This is a difficult issue,” explained the mayor, whose only child Dan died of a heroin overdose at age 38 in March 2015. “Addicts’ brains aren’t all alike. Treatment options are different; the effectiveness of them is different.

“The town, county and other players need to consider a myriad of options to see what may fit.”

At this point, town government’s role in helping to address the opioid addiction crisis appears limited, the mayor suggested.

While local churches, government agencies and nonprofits provide addiction recovery programs, Warrenton residents “want to see” more treatment options, Mr. Duggan said.

“So, I think the town council can help with that momentum,” he said.

The town also “might make a financial contribution” toward the development of a “building site” or a “facility” in Warrenton that would house agencies and/or organizations that serve recovering addicts, Mr. Duggan said.

“As mayor, I could envision that.” But, he added, “I have not talked about that to any council member.”

To support the construction of a Warrenton facility, the council also might consider waiving land-use permit and review fees for such a project, Mr. Duggan suggested.

The working group also includes:
• Board of Supervisors Chairman Chris Butler (Lee).

• Chris Connell, who manages McShin office at 30 John Marshall St. in downtown Warrenton.

• PATH Foundation Program Officer Andy Johnston.

• Councilman Jerry Wood (Ward 1).

• RRCS Clinical Services Director Ryan Banks.
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