ACU Foundation Lauds Del. Kirk Cox for Leadership in Tackling the Opioid Crisis

Washington, DC, Feb. 9, 2017 – The American Conservative Union Foundation’s Center for Criminal Justice Reform issued a statement today concerning passage of legislation in the Virginia House of Delegates that addresses the opioid epidemic that is afflicting the Commonwealth.

ACUF’s Pat Nolan, the Director of the Center for Criminal Justice Reform said: “The opioid crisis in Virginia affects not just addicts, but their families, our communities and the taxpayers as well. We know that merely locking up those who suffer from addiction is not a solution. Instead, legislation introduced by House Majority Leader Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) would expand the Heroin Addiction Recovery Program (“HARP”). HARP is an innovative and cost-effective approach that helps addicts actually beat their addiction.”

The program was originally developed by Chesterfield County Sheriff Karl Leonard when he saw that overdose rates had climbed by 80%. With the traditional approach to addressing drug use not working, Sheriff Leonard reached out to the Richmond-based McShin Foundation. Together, they created a unique recovery program that can be operated by local jails and has proven to be more effective at breaking the cycle of addition.

HARP’s 6-month program takes a distinctive approach: Professional counselors are brought in to educate inmates on addiction and help them identify stressful situations that can trigger their addictive responses. Volunteer mentors help inmates develop a support network that continues on after release. A peer-to- peer-counseling phase helps inmates build stronger ties to the community and foster a greater sense of personal accountability. Family members are invited to participate as well, so they can learn about the challenges with which their loved ones struggle.

Shortly after the first HARP graduating class in 2016, Sherriff Leonard opened a second ward specifically for women struggling with addiction. Both programs have posted Facebook Live videos, explaining to the public the positive impact the program is having in their lives.

Delegate Cox’s legislation (HB1845) would expand HARP to four additional jails in the Commonwealth. It was approved by the Virginia House of Delegates in a 97-0 bipartisan landslide vote on February 7th. The bill now moves to the Senate Committee for the Courts for Justice for consideration.

“This is just the type of creative response that will save lives in our communities,” said Center for Criminal Justice Reform’s Pat Nolan. “Leaders in Virginia like Kirk Cox and Karl Leonard are taking the initiative, and finding innovative solutions to the opioid crisis that make a real difference.”

The opioid epidemic is impacting families and communities throughout the United States. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more Americans are killed from drug overdoses than from car crashes.

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For more information on this topic, please contact Pat Nolan or David Safavian at the American Conservative Union Foundation’s Center for Criminal Justice Reform at: (202) 347-9388.