The Virginia Department of Health and the Department of Forensic Science have received $4.9 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The two, one-year grants are to advance the understanding of the opioid overdose epidemic and to increase prevention and response activities, including improving the timeliness and quality of surveillance data as part of the public health crisis response mechanism.

The CDC awarded VDH $4,050,277 through its Cooperative Agreement for Emergency Response: Public Health Crisis Response – 2018 Opioid Overdose Crisis to strengthen its emergency response to the opioid addiction epidemic in these areas: incident management for early crisis response, recovery, surveillance and data collection, surge management, and countermeasures and mitigation.

“Virginia’s participation in the Public Health Crisis Response mechanism is an integral part of CDC’s ongoing efforts to strengthen state, local and tribal capacity to respond to the epidemic as part of the national response to the opioid addiction crisis,” said State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, MD, MA. “These resources will be used to support and advance our understanding of the opioid addition crisis in the Commonwealth and help inform our decision-making as we continue the VDH mission to protect the health and promote the well-being of all people in Virginia.”

The CDC will provide DFS with $948,000 in equipment and supplies through its Opioid Overdose Crisis Partner Cooperative Agreement. This award will allow the Department’s Toxicology Section to develop efficiencies using the new instrumentation to automate the preparation of samples at each of the four DFS laboratories. This automation is anticipated to reduce the time required for sample preparation for cocaine and opioid testing from six hours to two hours. This grant will also provide DFS with fentanyl derivative reference materials that are required for a new method that will increase the comprehensiveness of toxicology testing, enabling DFS to provide more information on the concentrations of fentanyl derivatives in postmortem cases.

“We are excited to be able to shift several manual processes in our opioid method to a robotic platform and to expand our testing capabilities through this grant,” said DFS Director Linda Jackson. “This will allow the Toxicology Section to provide more timely and thorough results to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Virginia overdose deaths.”