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STATE OF AFFAIRS: Virginia Heroin Documentary Honored By Academy Of Interactive and Visual Arts


RICHMOND, Va. (May 19, 2016) – “Heroin: The Hardest Hit” tells the stories of Virginians in their own words who have been affected by the heroin and prescription opioid epidemic in the state. The documentary, released by Attorney General Mark Herring, was just honored with two Communicator Awards of Excellence by the Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts: Best Online Video Documentary and Best Online Video Education.



“This award belongs to all the Virginians who were brave enough to share their stories so that another family might not have to endure the same pain and loss caused by addiction,” says Attorney General Herring. “These incredible men and women have turned pain and struggle into resolve and commitment, and I will continue to stand by them as we work to address addiction in the Commonwealth.”


The documentary premiered at the Library of Virginia in December 2015 and features Virginians sharing their own stories of substance abuse disorder. Since it premiered 6 months ago, the movie has been viewed over 55,000 times online and over a dozen screening events have been held in Virginia.


“Heroin: The Hardest Hit” was produced by Director of Legislative and Constituent Affairs Brittany Anderson and directed by Emmy Award-winning director Jesse Vaughan of Virginia State University’s Advance Creative Services Group. Attorney General Herring has made combating the heroin and prescription opioid epidemic a top priority.


Heroin overdose fatalities in Virginia have more than doubled from 100 deaths in 2011 to 239 deaths in 2014, while an additional 547 Virginians died from prescription drug overdose in 2014 alone. Between 2011 and 2013, every region of the state experienced an increase in heroin overdose fatalities. More Virginians were killed in 2014 by heroin and prescription opioid drug overdose than car crashes, a common theme across the United States.


Attorney General Herring launched a 5-point plan to combat heroin and prescription opiate abuse last year.


“A few months after I took office, I learned what way too many Virginia families already know. There is a heroin and prescription drug crisis that is affecting every corner of the Commonwealth,” says Attorney General Herring. “This powerful glance into the lives of Virginians affected by this epidemic shows the real face of addiction and the struggle that so many in our Commonwealth confront each and every day. From grieving parents, to folks in recovery who lost everything, to law enforcement agencies and public health professionals, this movie lets Virginians tell their stories and explain the impact of heroin and prescription drug addiction for themselves. We really believe the message will resonate, especially with young people who may be at risk of experimenting with these dangerous drugs. We have to make sure people understand how deadly prescription drugs can be when abuse, and how quickly heroin and opioid addiction can take over your life. For those struggling with addiction, we want them to see that recovery is possible and there are a lot of resources and support if they’re willing to take the first step and commit to getting well. We’re sounding the alarm, and we need everyone, including parents, teachers, coaches, law enforcement officers, doctors and elected officials working together to get this problem turned around.”


The video is available to view free of charge through Attorney General Herring’s website. DVD copies and screenings with OAG staff can be requested by emailing [email protected].


In 2014, 728 Virginians lost their lives to heroin and prescription drug overdoses, up from 661 in 2013. In the last 5 years, fatal overdoses have increased by 57% and nearly 3000 Virginians have lost their lives. In just over a year, Attorney General Herring has prosecuted 28 state and federal heroin cases involving over 95 kilos of heroin, won passage of 3 life-saving anti-overdose bills.


“This heroin and prescription drug epidemic is a public health issue, a public safety and law enforcement issue, and most importantly, it’s a family issue. The rising and tragic death toll adds a dose of reality and a sense of urgency to our efforts and those of our local, state and federal partners,” said Attorney General Herring. I’m proud of the progress we’ve made, the infrastructure we’ve helped build, and the awareness we’ve brought to the problem, but we must remain steadfast in our efforts and remember that behind every overdose and every case of addiction, there are families and communities who suffer. Meeting folks who have lost loved ones serves as my motivation every single day and I will not waiver in my commitment to fight this deadly epidemic.”


Attorney General Herring’s crackdown on heroin-related cases resulted in removing nearly 300,000 doses of heroin from the streets of Virginia. He also started a pilot program to distribute Naloxone to be used throughout the state in an effort to combat opiate overdose deaths. Virginia averages 78 painkiller prescriptions per 100 people.

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