VA Governor visits SHS to talk fentanyl epidemic; sign executive order

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On May 9, 2023, Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin paid a visit to Stafford High School. The visit came just after EMT students at SHS received training for Narcan, an opioid-overdose reversal drug. While there, he and many other state officials shared facts, figures, and anecdotes about the tragedy of fentanyl overdoses.

Among the guest speakers were VA Lt. Governor Winsome Earle-Sears, State Health Commissoner Dr. Karen Shelton, and Attorney General Jason Miyares. Miyares began the presentation by producing a small plastic baggie containing a white powder. Enough powder, in fact, to “kill every onlooker in the auditorium twice over,” if it were fentanyl. He went on to explain that opioid overdose has gone from killing just 5,000 Americans in 1992 to killing a whopping 108,000 just last year. The culprit, fentanyl, is a deadly substance often laced into drugs such as Percocet. “They never tell you they’re about to get fentanyl. They always say it’s something else,” he explained.

Suzanne Youngkin, the First Lady of Virginia, has made fentanyl her own passion project. She recently launched a campaign known as, “One Pill Can Kill.” The social media campaign seeks to raise public awareness about counterfeit pills, which have a high likelihood of containing fentanyl. Her husband shares her anti-fentanyl sentiment, as Governor Youngkin would prove in the latter minutes of the presentation. 

Youngkin would share a heartbreaking story about five high schoolers overdosing in a bathroom in Arlington, Virginia. While four of the teens were saved, one sadly met their fate on the cold, hard bathroom floor. Shortly thereafter, he went on to detail the eight bills he signed into effect earlier in the day; such bills include HB 1682, which reclassifies the manufacture and distribution of substances containing fentanyl as a class IV felony, and HB 1709, which declares that employees in the Virginia Department of Corrrections are authorized to possess and administer Naloxone.

Youngkin then made one final declaration: Executive Order 26. This piece of literature will initiate a ‘comprehensive fentanyl-fighting strategy’ that seeks to prevent opioid overdoses through public education and increased treatment options. Much to the dismay of his security, the Virginia governor invited students onstage to witness as he signed Executive Order 26 into immediate effect. With the quick stroke of a pen and the disorienting flash of cameras, Virginia had declared a war on fentanyl.