Heroin overdose deaths up in Hampton Roads

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by Janet Roach, 13News Now

WVEC.com

Posted on February 20, 2014 at 6:58 PM

Updated Thursday, Mar 13 at 6:10 AM

NEWPORT NEWS -- Lee Boone says a heroin overdose nearly killed him.  He injected a pure form of the drug.

"I was pale in the face. My lips were turning blue," he recalls.

He says a friend who was with him at a time, a nurse, saved his life. She gave him CPR.

Two years later, he sits in rehab in Newport News still battling his addiction.  He's one of the lucky ones - a survivor.  

Law enforcement says pure heroin use is on the rise in Virginia and more people are dying. In 2012, the State Medical Examiner's office recorded 135 overdose deaths. The number shot up to 197 in 2013.  Virginia Beach had the most deaths with 24, up from 11 in 2012. Richmond had 21 and Portsmouth had ten.
2013 heroin death stats
2012 heroin death stats

During a January visit to Norfolk, FBI Director James Comey, speaking to a group of reporters,  identified heroin as a serious concern.

“I know with respect to drugs--there is a serious problem in different parts of the country including Tidewater with highly pure heroin."

Jamie Futrell also is battling an addiction. Before checking into rehab, he spent eight months in jail for committing a robbery. He says he broke into Lutie's Lair in Gloucester to get bath salts and spice to get high. He says he would rob, cheat and steal to get heroin.

'"I can't even explain where I was at in my life," the Hampton resident says.

Boone and Futrell describe a drug addiction that's easy to feed. They say they've bought heroin in several Hampton Roads cities, in neighborhoods and in front of convenience stores.  They say they've noticed more raw heroin is available.

"You can get $10 caps, comes in wax bags, $20 bags or you can get it raw. I get a gram of raw for $120-$130," Futrell states.

Portsmouth Police Chief Edward Hargis says his department has definitely noticed the problem. In the last three months, officers have changed their response to overdose calls in an effort to get the full story behind each overdose.

"Now we're bringing in our special investigators unit, so we're taking a look at it from several different areas to get a whole picture and follow-up on any overdoses that occur," says Hargis.

He says heroin is coming from dealers in New York, New Jersey and Washington D.C.

Law enforcement and addicts agree the addiction, in many cases, starts with prescription painkiller abuse.  Boone says he started abusing Vicodin and Percoset.  When that high wasn't enough, he turned to something stronger. Futrell calls heroin a dirtier, stronger form of the prescription pills.

Futrell and Boone are getting help to beat their addition at Youth Challenge in Newport News. Program Director Travis Hall says about 50 men are currently enrolled in the Christian-themed program and there's never a shortage of clients. He says more younger addicts are coming in hooked on heroin than on cocaine. Each person spends four months there and then ten months in Rehrersburg, Pennsylvania for what's called the training phase of rehab. Then it's back to Newport News for the re-entry phase, which helps people find employment.   Each step includes a lot of prayer and counseling.

"There's also a vocational component to the program where our men and women can work in different aspects of the ministry that we have. We have a thrift store," says Hall.

For Futrell, Youth Challenge is his last chance. He received a 21-year suspended sentence for that robbery in Gloucester, but he has to complete the program. 

Boone was charged with heroin possession and also was ordered to complete the program. Both men say they were at the end of the line and now hope for new beginnings.

See an extended interview with Jamie Futrell here

 

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