On Sept. 30, the Richmond Public Interest Law Review hosted its annual symposium on a popular and timely topic: Virginia’s opioid epidemic. The event came in the footsteps of Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week, a new initiative that’s part of President Barack Obama’s recommitted efforts to reduce overdose deaths in America through education, expanding access to treatment, and improving subscription practices. Local practitioners, students, and faculty gathered at the University of Richmond School of Law to explore policy and treatment and hear from a panel of experts.

The heroin and opioid problem is one on the rise, not only in Virginia but nationwide, said Dr. James May of the Richmond Behavioral Health Authority, who spoke to the science of addiction at the symposium. According to Dr. May, drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, with opioid addiction driving the trend.

Attorney General Mark Herring, L’90, who recently launched his own initiative to combat heroin and opioid addiction, joined the symposium as keynote speaker. “This is not a white problem or a black problem or a Latino or Asian problem,” said Herring. “This is not a rich or poor problem. This is not a rural, urban, suburban problem. This is a national problem"

The event also included a panel discussion with Brittany Anderson, director of constituent and legal affairs for the Office of the Attorney General; Timothy Coyne, public defender for the City of Winchester; and Shannon Taylor, Commonwealth’s Attorney for Henrico. A video recording of the symposium is available online.