With opioids topping the list of causes of non-natural death in Fairfax County, local health officials have launched a new resource to give residents a better understanding of the situation.
A public-facing dashboard went live Monday (Oct. 3) with data about opioid overdoses and overdose deaths in the Fairfax Health District, which includes Fairfax County and the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church.
The Fairfax County Health Department worked with the county’s Opioid and Substance Use Task Force to put the dashboard together, according to the announcement.
“The goal of the dashboard is to ensure that Fairfax County residents understand the threat that opioid drugs pose in our community and recognize that overdoses and overdose deaths affect a wide range of ages, people of both sexes, and all racial and ethnic groups,” Dr. Benjamin Schwartz, the county’s director of epidemiology and population health, said in the release.
The dashboard provides information about overdoses broken down by age, race and ethnicity. It will be updated in the first week of every month, according to the announcement.
As of press time, the dashboard counted 205 non-fatal opioid overdoses from Jan. 1 through Sept. 30 in the Fairfax Health District. There were 237 non-fatal overdoses at this point in 2021.
The dashboard also noted that the first quarter of 2022 saw 20 fatal opioid overdoses, compared to 31 during the first quarter of 2021.
“We want the public to be aware of overdose trends, which reflect the impacts of social factors, the types and availability of drugs, and the effect of mitigation measures including law enforcement, treatment and harm reduction measures,” Schwartz said.
The data comes from two main places: A system managed by the state health department that keeps track of emergency room and urgent care visits for overdoses, and the Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
Earlier this year, county medical officials worked to step up their response to the opioid epidemic after emergency care statistics showed an increase in overdoses, particularly cases involving teenagers.
The county provides services to assist people struggling with opioid use, including the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board Peer Outreach Response Team and the Fairfax Detoxification Center.
Another medical cannabis dispensary is opening this week in Fairfax.
Beyond/Hello will open its second local dispensary at 10521 Fairfax Blvd in the City of Fairfax. The new location will begin serving patients on Wednesday (Aug. 29) at 10 a.m.
Beyond/Hello, owned by Flordia-based Jushi, is one of the only four companies currently allowed to sell cannabis in Virginia. FFXnow first reported the news of the company’s plans in April.
Fairfax County got its first medical cannabis dispensary in late July, with Beyond/Hello opening a site just off of Richmond Highway in Huntington.
The new 10,500-square-foot Fairfax dispensary is located in a former RiteAid. It will feature a licensed pharmacist, 26 patient checkouts, and 45 parking spots with “easy in-and-out access.”
In July, Chief Commercial Director Trent Wolveck told FFXnow that the attraction of this particular spot was its parking and proximity to the highway. Jushi CEO and founder Jim Cacioppo noted in a press release that the closeness to George Mason University was a selling point as well:
Known for its hallmark landscaped and leafy street medians, Fairfax is recognized by Forbes as one of the top places to live in the nation. Beyond Hello™ Fairfax is in a prime location, located in close proximity to George Mason University, a host of shopping centers and independently owned retail shops in the heart of Northern Virginia, and nestled in the suburban expanse of the Washington, D.C. metro region. We are very excited to serve patients in this region and deliver a retail experience that exceeds expectations.
A new state law that took effect July 1 makes it easier for Virginia residents to purchase medical cannabis, removing a requirement that patients register with the state. Now, patients just need written certification from a licensed practitioner. The law passed this year with bipartisan support.
Passed earlier this year with bipartisan support, the law is expected to encourage more residents to obtain their medical cannabis certification and greatly expand the industry.
However, retail sales of cannabis remain illegal after another bill failed in the General Assembly. As of now, cannabis retail sales won’t be allowed in Virginia until Jan. 1, 2024.
Meanwhile, Beyond/Hello is continuing its expansion in Northern Virginia. A location in Clarendon is expected to open by the end of the year, with a Woodbridge dispensary starting to serve patients in early 2023.
The Fairfax location will be Beyond/Hello’s fourth dispensary in Northern Virginia, joining ones in Huntington, Manassas and Sterling. The company also has dispensaries in California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Nevada, and Pennsylvania.
A Fairfax County detective shot a man last night (Tuesday) during what police say was a narcotics investigation in the Seven Corners area.
As part of a drug investigation, undercover narcotics detectives in the area that evening identified people “who were allegedly involved in the illegal distribution of narcotics,” Police Chief Kevin Davis said at a media briefing.
“When they went to make the arrest, the persons were inside a motor vehicle. They took off at a high rate of speed,” Davis said. “They drove very recklessly, as you can see from the scene behind me, and when we attempted to take them into custody, a Fairfax County detective discharged his firearm.”
Officer-involved shooting: Detectives were conducting an investigation near Arlington Blvd/Patrick Henry Dr. Prelim, suspect was shot as officers attempted to arrest him in a vehicle. The man was taken to hospital for injuries not considered life-threatening. No officers injured. pic.twitter.com/viAZ3BoIOQ
— Fairfax County Police (@FairfaxCountyPD) August 3, 2022
A preliminary investigation of the incident indicated that the car had “jumped a couple of curbs” before police blocked the vehicle in, Davis said.
According to Davis, the man who got shot was transported to a local hospital with an injury to an “upper extremity,” possibly his arm, but he’s expected to make a full recovery.
No other injuries were reported, including to a person in the vehicle’s front passenger seat or the police officers.
Criminal and administrative investigations into the shooting are underway. The detective who fired his gun is now on “a routine administrative status,” Davis said.
“It’s a very thorough criminal investigation. It’s a very thorough administrative investigation,” Davis said. “We work hand-in-glove with the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, and we conduct a best-in-practice officer-involved shooting investigation.”
The shooting occurred just over a mile away from where police were engaged in an hours-long standoff with a man at the Barcroft Hills condominiums who had been spotted carrying a rifle and making threats.
Fairfax County police officers have now shot five people this year, two of them fatally at Springfield Town Center in late June and at a McLean home in early July. Police also shot a man in Lorton who was reportedly armed with a rifle in February and a man wielding a bow and arrow in Chantilly on Jan. 6.
Fairfax County’s first medical cannabis dispensary is opening today (Wednesday) in Huntington.
There will be an official ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by local lawmakers on Aug. 4, a company spokesperson told FFXnow.
The company will also open a store in Fairfax City at 10521 Fairfax Blvd, likely in September. Another one in Arlington is due later this year, and there are plans for a Woodbridge dispensary in 2023.
Beyond/Hello is owned by Flordia-based Jushi and is one of four companies currently permitted to sell cannabis in Virginia. The company is legally allowed to operate six dispensaries in Northern Virginia.
The Huntington dispensary moved into the former home of Great American Steak & Buffet Company, which appears to have closed in 2020. The store is 9,600 square feet and has more than 50 parking spots.
It’s also just south of Alexandria, as Jushi CEO Jim Cacioppo highlighted in a press release:
We’re thrilled to open up our new dispensary in Alexandria — a town famous for its nationally recognized landmarks, rich history, vibrant arts, pristine waterfront and charming restaurants and boutiques. Beyond Hello Alexandria captures the best of our thinking and combines our digital and physical retail experiences with the flexibility and convenience of our express checkout services. In addition, Beyond Hello Alexandria is strategically positioned near the ‘Beltway’ with easy highway access, and is conveniently located within a 15-minute drive to approximately 400,000 people.
While retail sales of cannabis remain illegal in Virginia, the medical cannabis industry is expected to explode in the coming months after a new state law went into effect July 1, removing the need for patients to register with the Commonwealth. Now, patients just need a certification from a licensed medical practitioner to make a purchase.
Already, Beyond/Hello officials say they are seeing a significant increase in patient sign-ups in July compared to last month.
“Since the patient registration process requirement has been removed, the Company has seen a 2.3x increase in patient sign-ups in the first three weeks of July as compared to the entire month of June,” the press release said.
A Greenbriar East Elementary School health aide has been indicted on charges for stealing students’ medication, according to the Fairfax County police.
Former Fairfax County Health Department employee Jennifer Carpenter, 45, of Fairfax falsified documentation on prescription medication she gave students, according to a press release. Carpenter dispensed sugar placebo pills and over-the-counter medicine in place of narcotics — including Ritalin, Adderall, and Focalin — that police believe she was keeping for personal use.
During the investigation, detectives identified seven students at the Fair Lakes area school whose medicine was being abused, police said.
Detectives began investigating on May 27 after a health department supervisor noticed a discrepancy in the amount of medication several students maintained at the school, the release said.
Carpenter was indicted on seven counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor; two separate counts of unlawful possession of controlled substances; one count of obtaining drugs by fraud, deceit, misrepresentation, embezzlement, or subterfuge; and one count of unlawful dispension of a drug in place of another without permission of the person ordering/prescribing.
In a statement, FCPD Criminal Investigations Division Commander Captain Frederick Chambers said:
As parents, we have an expectation that a person in a position of trust will care for our children. When that trust is broken, we can feel betrayed. Thanks to the swift notification of the health department and schools, our detectives were able to immediately begin their investigation when the discrepancy was noticed. We will continue to hold anyone who abuses their position of power accountable for their actions.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Steven Descano called Carpenter’s actions a “gross breach of trust” in a statement.
“This situation could have easily evolved into a medical emergency for any of the children affected,” the statement reads.
This morning, CA Descano announced the indictment of Jennifer Carpenter on two counts of possession of schedule I or II drugs, one count of adulterated or misbranded drugs, and seven counts of contributing to the delinquency or abuse of a child. pic.twitter.com/YHiaBp9vb2
— Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Descano (@FairfaxCountyCA) July 21, 2022
If convicted, Carpenter faces a sentence of three to 32.5 years in prison, and up to $25,000 in fines, Descano said.
Police ask anyone with information about the case to call 703-591-0966. Tips can also be submitted anonymously through Crime Solvers by phone – 1-866-411-TIPS (866-411-8477), and by web.
Photo via Greenbriar East/Facebook
The Fairfax County area’s first medical cannabis dispensaries are almost ready to make their debuts.
That store is set to start serving patients “within two to four weeks,” pending approval from the Virginia Board of Pharmacy, Chief Commercial Director Trent Wolveck told FFXnow.
The new dispensary will be located next to a car dealership at 5902 Richmond Highway. Set back a bit from the road, the building previously housed the Great American Steak & Buffet Company, which appears to have closed in 2020.
“This location was selected due to the proximity to the Old Town Alexandria and the 495 Beltway,” Wolveck said by email. “Also, our preference in Virginia is for stand alone single tenant properties. We get that here, along with over 90 parking spaces for patients.”
Construction on the business appears to be mostly completed, with a glossy black, stylized sign in front.
Beyond/Hello’s Fairfax City dispensary is also on track to open within the next six to 10 weeks, barring state approval, Wolveck says. It will be at 10521 Fairfax Blvd. in a former Rite Aid building.
Wolveck says the location held a similar appeal as the Richmond Highway one, since it’s a standalone building with a large number of parking spots. The proximity to major roads and highways also was attractive.
“The property sits on highly trafficked Leesburg Pike and provides the best signage and branding opportunity of all of our Virginia locations given its position at the intersection of Leesburg Pike and Chain Bridge [Road],” Wolveck noted. “The Fairfax location is also just two minutes from I-66.”
Earlier this month, it became easier for Virginia residents to obtain medical cannabis. A new state law went into effect July 1, removing the need for patients to register with the Commonwealth to make a purchase. Now, patients simply need written certification from a licensed practitioner.
This loosening of regulations is expected to supercharge Virginia’s medical cannabis industry. As of April, only about 0.5% of the Commonwealth’s nearly 9 million residents were registered as medical cannabis patients. That’s far below the national average of 2% and Maryland’s rate of 2.5%.
Medical cannabis sales may catch fire in the coming months, but recreational sales remain banned in Virginia. While it is legal to possess and grow marijuana in the Commonwealth, an effort to create infrastructure for retail sales failed in the Virginia General Assembly earlier this year.
For the moment, cannabis retail sales won’t be allowed in Virginia until Jan. 1, 2024.
Beyond/Hello is continuing its expansion across Northern Virginia. The company is legally allowed to operate six dispensaries in Virginia, with its first two already open in Manassas and Sterling.
An Arlington dispensary is set to open in Clarendon along Wilson Blvd by the end of the year, while a Woodbridge location is aiming for an early 2023 start date.
A Fairfax man was sentenced to 52 months in jail yesterday (Tuesday) for conspiring to distribute drugs through the darknet in a conspiracy that extended to other Fairfax County residents.
Tyler Pham, 39, conspired to distribute peach tablets through the U.S. mail that were advertised as Adderall but actually contained methamphetamine, according to a U.S Department of Justice press release. Six other individuals previously entered guilty pleas in connection with the conspiracy and were sentenced to over 13 years in prison combined.
The co-conspirators lived in other parts of the county, including Springfield and Annandale, as well as in Alexandria.
Pham was sentenced for conspiring to distribute between 15 and 45 kilograms of the pills from about May 2019 through December 2019, according to the press release. Pham used the moniker “addy4cheap” on darknet markets, the Empire Market and Cryptonia.
Law enforcement agents purchased 767 tablets, weighing about 268 grams total, from “addy4cheap” between August 2019 and December 2019.
On Dec. 9, 2019, search warrants were executed at Pham and his co-conspirators’ residences, including the homes of Lien Kim Thi Phan, 37, of Fairfax, and Hon Lam Luk, 35, of Chantilly.
In the home of Phan and Pham, agents found 95 peach tablets, and in Luk’s residence, investigators found over 6,000 peach tablets weighing approximately 2.2 kilograms, all of which resembled those advertised on “addy4cheap” and those received by law enforcement through controlled purchases.
As of Dec. 10, 2019, “addy4cheap” had completed 3,665 sales on the Empire Market and received 2,568 reviews. Based on these reviews, “addy4cheap” had received approximately $482,572.10 in sales for an approximate 44,872 pills sold. As of Nov. 7, 2019, “addy4cheap” had fulfilled 140 transactions on Cryptonia.
Pham’s other co-conspirators were listed as Phan and Duong Nguyen, 29, of Springfield; Son Nguyen, 36, of Annandale; Dat Nguyen, 37 of Alexandria; and Trieu Hoang, 39, of Springfield.
The FBI’s Washington Field Office’s Hi-Tech Opioid Task Force, which includes local and federal agencies and members, conducted the investigation.
“The task force is charged with identifying and investigating the most egregious Dark Web marketplaces, and the vendors operating on the marketplaces who are engaged in the illegal acquisition and distribution of controlled substances, to include fentanyl, methamphetamine, and other opioids,” the release said.
The full release is below.
(Updated at 1:40 p.m.) A man from Lorton has been sentenced to 22 years in prison after he gave a young woman a Xanax pill laced with fentanyl and tried to hide evidence of her death in a storage shed, court documents show.
Julian A. Velasquez, 36, was sentenced yesterday (Tuesday) following a plea deal in federal court. It came after authorities found he provided the woman with the drugs, sold heroin to a man before calling 911, and lied to emergency responders, according to court documents.
Velasquez also admitted to providing narcotics to two people who died from overdoses, one in 2017 and the other in 2018.
The most recent death happened in 2020, when the woman — a friend of Velasquez from Los Angeles, who’s identified in court documents as E.M. — visited him to take drugs in anticipation of her birthday, according to an FBI affidavit. She died due to fentanyl intoxication.
“She’s no longer with her friends and her family and her community,” Fairfax County Police Department Chief Kevin Davis said of the 29-year-old victim.
FBI assistant special agent in charge Timothy Thibault also expressed his condolences to the victims’ families.
Velasquez picked up the woman from Baltimore’s international airport on Aug. 8, 2020, and he reported to 911 that she was unresponsive the evening of Aug. 9.
Before the 911 call, though, investigators found that Velasquez sold heroin to a male Vienna resident on Aug. 9, according to prosecutors.
“On August 9, 2020, Velasquez found E.M. unresponsive but he did not call 911 or seek medical assistance,” prosecutors said. “Velasquez instead called his friend and drug customer, Enoel Comsti, 27, of Vienna, to assist in removing evidence of drug use and drug distribution from the crime scene at Velasquez’s residence.”
Comsti saw the woman lying on the bed and attempted to administer Narcan to reverse the overdose, according to authorities. Velasquez then tried to clean up the residence and remove evidence of drug use, according to a statement of facts that he signed as part of the plea deal.
The pair then tried to reach a storage unit when Comsti’s vehicle broke down with two flat tires, according to authorities. Velasquez continued by foot to the storage unit to hide drug evidence.
After returning home, Velasquez called 911, asked for an ambulance and made false statements to emergency responders, denying that the woman had a drug overdose.
“Velasquez told the dispatcher that he could not tell if [E.M.] was breathing and indicated that it appeared that [she] was biting her tongue,” the FBI said. “Velasquez told the dispatcher that he believed [the victim] may be diabetic and confirmed to dispatch that it was possible [she] was having a diabetic emergency.”
In another plea deal, a federal judge sentenced Comsti in February to a year and nine months in prison for “aiding and abetting tampering with evidence.”
Meanwhile, authorities are currently prosecuting multiple cases caused by fentanyl and other synthetic opioids in northern Virginia, federal prosecutor Jessica Aber said, in an effort to address not just low-level street crimes but international drug traffickers.
Aber said there’s a pill epidemic in the country in which pills are being laced with fentanyl. She said if you go to a party and someone gives you a pill, it could have fentanyl in it and kill you.
“If you are buying drugs on the dark web or other unlicensed licenses, you are potentially playing Russian roulette,” Thibault said. “Drug dealers are lacing virtually every drug with deadly fentanyl.”
What to Know About Monkeypox — “More monkeypox cases have been reported in the United States since the first illness was reported in Massachusetts last week. But there’s no need for Virginia residents to panic, health officials say as they learn more about how the viral disease is spread.” [Patch]
County to Talk About Youth Mental Health Issues and Drug Use — “As a parent, our kids’ wellbeing is my top priority. Today, the Board supported my motion to convene a roundtable with reps from [Department of Family Services], our Opioid Task Force, clinical pros, the BOS and school board to directly tackle youth mental health & substance use.” [Jeff McKay/Twitter]
McLean Woman Settles Fraud Case — A McLean resident has agreed to pay $107,347 to settle allegations that she falsified information to obtain two Paycheck Protection Program loans, totaling $42,601, federal prosecutors said yesterday (Tuesday). The Justice Department prosecuted the woman as part of its efforts to crack down on fraud related to COVID-19 relief funds. [DOJ]
Arlington Doughnut Shop Plans Tysons Kitchen — “Good Company Doughnuts & Café has inked a lease for roughly 5,000 square feet at 8524-G Tyco Road…for a kitchen commissary, where it will produce and assemble its products for off-site retail sale…Good Company hopes to have the commissary operating by the end of 2022, [co-owner Charles] Kachadoorian said.” [Washington Business Journal]
Metro Introduces Navigation App to Help Blind Riders — “Metro has partnered with Waymap, a new UK-based start-up, to bring the technology to the Brookland, Silver Spring, and Braddock Road Metro stations…The app will be available in at least 30 Metro train and nearly 1,000 bus stops by September; the entire system is scheduled to be brought online by early 2023.” [DCist]
Cybersecurity Company Moves Within Tysons — “Codehunter…relocated from 1660 International Drive to 1775 Greensboro Station Pl. and expanded their corporate headquarters. Codehunter, represented by Timothy Jacobs and Edward Saa, needed to expand their office footprint due to business growth while also needed to re-strategize their office footprint to support their hybrid work model.” [CityBiz]
New School Board Student Representative Chosen — “Michele Togbe, a junior at South County High School, has been elected by the countywide Student Advisory Council (SAC) to serve a one-year term as student representative to the Fairfax County School Board, beginning July 1…Togbe has three main focuses as student representative: transparency within students’ voices, furthering civic education, and maintaining an equitable lens.” [FCPS]
Local Students Relax with Yarn — “About a dozen third, fourth, fifth and sixth graders gather at lunch several times a week at Little Run ES to knit and loom together. The program was initially launched as an after-school effort paid for with Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief aid, or ESSER III funding.” [FCPS]
It’s Wednesday — Overcast throughout the day. High of 64 and low of 56. Sunrise at 5:50 am and sunset at 8:25 pm. [Weather.gov]
An effort by Fairfax County Police Department with help from Reston Hospital Center just brought in over half a ton of expired and unused drugs.
It translated to about half the weight of Mazda’s MX-5 Miata convertible.
This weekend’s collection saw a drop in the amount of drugs diverted at previous Drug Take Back events, which are held twice a year.
The initiative collected 2,038 pounds of drugs in April 2021, the most reported by police during the pandemic.
As is typically the case, West Springfield brought in the most amount by weight, collecting over 300 pounds of drugs.
Photo via FCPD