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Reflections on Wonderful Morning

Reflections on Wonderful Morning

By Archie Boone Jr.

October 26, 2018

In 2017, I attended a community meeting in which Christina Pullen, FBI Norfolk,  was a guest speaker. The church auditorium was full of concerned citizens of Virginia Beach. For several presenters, technically difficulties ruined their hopes of sharing visual presentations, depicting people struggling in the throws of opiate addiction. By the time Christina’s took stage, the sound module and projector were ready to go. With a glaring smile, Christina touted the arrest and upcoming sentencing of Rhadu Schoolfield, aka Bigface Dolla, who will be spending the next 24 years as a guest Federal Prison. She played an entire music video entitled, “Dumb Hard,” which was used to convict Schoolfield.

In a comment, Jimmy Frost of Virginian Pilot wrote, “Rhadu Schoolfield said he no longer liked the song “Dumb Hard,” which focused on all the work he was putting in on the streets of Portsmouth selling drugs. And he said he didn’t like watching the YouTube video, which featured him rapping in the streets of the city’s Lincoln Park neighborhood next to elementary school-age children and several of his fellow dealers.”

For the record, Christina Pullen had unintentionally identified Blacks in urban areas as the source of Hampton Road’s Opioid Epidemic. While listening to Christina’s presentation, I made a critical decision to use my free-time towards writing appropriate song lyrics. My team is now producing positive rap videos that shed light on comprehensive strategies being used across prevention, treatment, and recovery to combat the Opioid Epidemic in Hampton Roads.

Statewide, the number of opioid overdose deaths increased 8 percent last year, from 1,138 to 1,227. In other words, an average of more than three Virginians each day.  Attorney General Mark Herring says he has made the opioid crisis a top priority of his administration. “The numbers are still really, really large. Fentanyl, on average 50 times more deadly than heroin, continues to be a major problem locally and nationwide. Attorney General Mark Herring was quoted saying, “Hampton Roads is feeling the impact of an addiction epidemic that doesn’t discriminate.”

  • The rate of fatal overdoses has increased in all communities
  • 108% in White communities
  • 338% in Black communities
  • 400% in Latino communities

The stigmas surrounding opiate addiction are staggering, and at times unbelievable. However, citizens must create  a culture of understanding and offer support for people who are suffering. Although opiate addiction has a diverse face at this time, it didn’t start that way. After the completion of community readiness interviews, a city-wide needs assessment and coalition strategic planning, Norfolk Prevention Coalition (NPC) has created a sustainable strategic approach to reduce opioid misuse and heroin overdose in the City of Norfolk. NPC is focusing on identifying and building relationships with invested community stakeholders to combat this national epidemic, which has affected our city.  Via survey of over 1000 youth ages 12-18 and young adults ages 18-24 utilizing the Youth and Young Adult Risky Behavior Survey and compilation of existing city data show the populations most impacted by this epidemic in Norfolk are as follows:

  1. For prescription drug misuse, married White women, 30 – under Virginia Social Indicator Dashboard
  2. For heroin fatal overdose, White males, 18-24 years old. – Virginia Social Indicator Dashboard
  3. Prescription medications caused or contributed to more child deaths than any other substance (68%) – Virginia State Child Fatality Review Team, Overdose Poisoning Deaths to Children in Virginia 2009- 2013.
  4. The trend in proportionate mortality from 2011 to 2015 (Norfolk’s 2010 value not known).Here is a table of the 2015 ratios:
    Ratio of Local Proportionate Mortality to VA Proportionate Mortality, 2015
    Total Men Women 25-34 45-54 Other Ages
    Norfolk Hampton Roads Norfolk Hampton Roads Norfolk Hampton Roads Norfolk Hampton Roads Norfolk Hampton Roads Norfolk Hampton Roads
    1.7764 1.26935 1.6452 1.30342 1.98503 1.2071 0.957 1.0248 2.17803 1.3261 1.04792 1.14094


    These values are the ratio of the local percentage of opioid deaths to all deaths to the state percentage of opioid deaths to all deaths. The proportionate mortality for opioid poisoning is about twice as high in Norfolk for 45-54-year-olds and women compared to Virginia as a whole. Here’s a look at these categories broken down as percentages of death just for Norfolk.

    Deaths by sex in 2015:

    women 35.90%
    men 64.10%

    Deaths by age in 2015:

    Other 38.46%
    25-34 25.64%
    45-54 35.90%
  5. Clear Points: While women make up a much lower percentage of total deaths in Norfolk than men, the proportion of opioid deaths for women in Norfolk is twice as high as for women across the whole state.  The 45-54 age group is the age group that has the highest proportion of opioid deaths in Norfolk and the proportion of opioid deaths for them is also over twice as high as for that age group across the whole state. Finally, while the 25-34 age group makes up a large percentage of the local opioid deaths, their proportionate mortality is consistent with the state-wide value for that group.

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