RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — In order to mitigate harm from opioids, Richmond and Henrico Health Districts (RHHD), in collaboration with other local agencies, is launching “Metro Richmond Spike Alert” to notify the community about increases in overdoses.

According to RHHD, a “spike” in overdoses could indicate the presence of diverted or illegal drugs that are particularly potent and likely to cause an overdose. Informing those who may use opioids of these spikes could potentially prevent injury and death.

“This program puts data to use and allows us to help our communities stay safer from overdoses,” said Wayne Harbour, Chief Operating Officer at Richmond Ambulance Authority. “We’re glad to help collect and analyze this data and to do so in collaboration with our neighboring communities…this is an issue that transcends borders.”

According to the agency, over 430 people died from overdoses in Richmond and the counties of Henrico, Chesterfield and Hanover — an increase of 40% from 2019.

“Opioid overdoses is one of the leading public health crises our communities are experiencing,” says Dr. Melissa Viray, Acting Director at RHHD. “Beyond notification so that individuals can be informed and take precautions, we’re hopeful that this will generally bring more awareness of the opioid epidemic.”

Representatives will monitor overdose rates in each locality and when a spike is observed, an alert will go out over social media and to everyone who has signed up for their email list.

“In addition to providing notification of a spike, the spike alert offers life saving educational information,” said Lauren Herschler, Opioid Outreach Coordinator at Chesterfield County Mental Health Support Services. “We want to make sure folks are informed on overdose spikes in the region, what makes a person more vulnerable to overdose, signs of an overdose, how to respond and where to access free naloxone.”

To learn more about RHHD’s opioid overdose prevention efforts, visit rhhd.gov/spikealert.