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EVMS hosts summit on mental health, opioid crisis

NORFOLK, Va. (WVEC) -- Members of the healthcare community absorbed everything they could at the Mental Health Summit hosted by the Eastern Virginia Medical School on Tuesday.

EVMS President Richard Homan said there's a specific focus this year.

"To identify ways to be able to improve the mental health service's in this region, with a focus on the crisis in opiod addiction as well," Homan explained.

It's an addiction that takes a hold of many families.

"I've had experience with a son who had opioid addiction as well and so this is something that is extraordinarily common unfortunately," added Homan.

According to Dr. Heidi Kulberg, the health director for the Virginia Beach Department of Health, last year there were over 1100 deaths due to opioid overdoses in Virginia. Out of those, 277 deaths happened in Hampton Roads.

Kulberg tells 13News Now that's a 40 percent increase from the previous year.

Organizers of the summit say by mental health providers and other health advocates teaming up, they can develop tangible solutions.

"To create a transformative system,where we can easily diagnose and access the issues, take care of the patients and have them be able to be productive members of society," said Dr. Cynthia Romero, director of the Brock Institute for Community and Global Health.