Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources speaks with Lexington emergency planning group

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LEXINGTON, Va. (WDBJ7) In Lexington, the state secretary of Health and Human Resources came to Carilion Stonewall Jackson Hospital for their regular emergency planning group meeting.

The subject was opioid addiction, and the secretary had some serious thoughts on how to attack the problem.

"If you said: Hey, you've got a one in ten chance of being dead in the next year, you would want to intervene and do something," says Dr. John Burton, Carilion's Chair of Emergency Medicine, explaining the depth of the problem.

Those are the odds when someone comes in to the emergency room overdosing.

"What makes this so bad is that the compound is so addictive, the opioids are so addictive and they're so deadly," says Dr. Bill Hazel, Jr., Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources.

He met with the hospital's regular emergency planning group about the problems and efforts to solve the state's opioid addiction problems.

"However you get there - whether it's taking medicines that were prescribed and then becoming habituated and then addicted, diversion, making bad decisions -- once that addiction hits, you lose control of your brain," Hazel says. "The brain changes."

And it's that addiction, he believes, that needs to be addressed and ideally prevented before it occurs, because finding beds for treatment of addicts is almost impossible now.

"That's one of the real challenges here," according to Burton. "There's not enough beds in the rehabilitation programs to affect the need, so we do the best that we can."

Leaving law enforcement, hospitals, and officials like Dr. Hazel with a difficult struggle to win.

Hazel laments, "I think we're going to see, unfortunately, it look worse for a while before it gets better, even if we're successful."