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Gillespie presents mental health, addiction plan in Kents Store

Ed Gillespie, Republican candidate for Virginia governor, stopped by the Kents Store firehouse Wednesday (July 12) to discuss his plan to improve the state’s mental health system and combat the opioid epidemic.

About 20 people, including first responders and Fork Union Military Academy (FUMA) students, came to meet Gillespie, he said. Several participated in a roundtable discussion.

“I’ve been talking about my plan to address the challenge of opioid addiction in the Commonwealth, so talking to first responders and people in the law enforcement community is important to me,” Gillespie said.

Gillespie’s plan is multi-faceted and involves several ideas, including allocation of resources, greater cooperation between agencies, use of recovery-oriented systems of care, education for schoolchildren, and implementation of a Good Samaritan law. His plan can be found on his website at edforvirginia.com.

Gillespie said the roundtable also covered other topics affecting Fluvanna. “We talked about some of the budget challenges that firefighters deal with, and also presumptive disease, where there’s a presumption that there’s a correlation between service as firefighters and cancers in particular,” he said. “It’s a concern amongst firefighters and I’m very interested in it.”

Gillespie spoke to FUMA students as well. “We talked about addiction and the dangers of drugs – opioids, painkillers – and being leaders in their communities and in their peer groups…[and the] positive impact” that behavior would have. “It was a broad-ranging and very positive conversation.”

Asked to speak directly to Fluvanna residents, Gillespie said, “I’ve got plans to make life better for Fluvanna and all Virginians by creating jobs, raising take-home pay, confronting the opioid epidemic that’s sweeping our country, and improving our schools. I’ve put forward a detailed policy… I’m going to continue to put forward these policies because I know they will improve the quality of life for the people in Fluvanna and everywhere else too.”

Commonwealth’s Attorney Jeff Haislip, who attended the roundtable discussion, said he was “very optimistic” about Gillespie’s plan.

“The five-point plan to address these problems is well thought out and would bring welcome change to how we deal with addiction and mental health issues in the court system,” he wrote in an email. “As with any plan, however, the devil is in the details. The framework is there but it is still left to be seen what resources will be made available to provide the substance abuse and mental health treatment recommended…

“I applaud him for coming out with an outline and some very open-minded thinking about the problems that we see on a daily basis,” Haislip continued. “I also commend him for being willing to not only present his plan but to listen to the concerns of prosecutors, law enforcement and the first responders who are doing the best they can with the tools available to them.”

Gillespie is running against Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam, a Democrat. The election is Nov. 7.