New initiative to fight opioid abuse in southwestern Virginia

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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) The Opioid crisis continues to grow in the United States and here in southwestern Virginia.

Now a campaign is taking shape here to rally the region around a complex and challenging problem.

"The overdose epidemic really hit my family," Steve Mason told WDBJ7. "My wife's first cousin's daughter was a victim."

A personal loss for Mason and his family sparked a conversation, and now a community-wide initiative.

Tuesday morning, the Foundation for Roanoke Valley donated $70,000 to the Prevention Council of Roanoke County for its Urgent Love Initiative.

The goal is to raise awareness, offer help to people struggling with addiction and marshal resources in many areas to attack the problem.

Dr. John Burton is serving as a medical advisor.

"This is a very real problem in our communities," he said in an interview. "It's a very local problem, and the need is right here right now."

"It just has absolutely continued to grow and double and triple," said Prevention Council Executive Director Nancy Hans, "and we really have to come together as a local community and then regionally to say we have to be all in, we really do."

Not restricted to the Roanoke Valley, the Urgent Love Initiative will reach out to people in 26 counties across southwestern Virginia.

"The hope is that this will save lives," Mason told us. "My first cousin's daughter Tori she's gone. So the hope is that we're going to save the next person and lower this epidemic and fight it and ultimately stop it."