NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — On Tuesday, Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares announced the launch of his new initiative aiming to combat the opioid crisis.

The “One Pill Can Kill” initiative is hoping to spread public awareness on counterfeit drugs, opioids and fentanyl. Miyares was in Norfolk on Tuesday with Virginia first lady Suzanne Youngkin for the launch of the initiative.

“One Pill Can Kill” aims to generate open conversations amongst families about counterfeit drugs and fentanyl. 

“One pill can take a life. One pill can rob you of your dreams. One pill can deny your family ever seeing you again [and] never having a normal holiday because you had your life taken too soon,” Miyares said.

Miyares recently joined 44 other attorneys general to urge the Drug Enforcement Administration and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to permanently extend telehealth flexibilities for prescribing buprenorphine, an opioid use disorder treatment.

During a press conference, the attorney general said four Virginians die everyday as a result of drug abuse and over 105,000 Americans have died of overdoses nationwide.

In Virginia, the leading cause of unnatural death is drug overdoses, and has been since 2013. Opioids – specifically fentanyl – has been the driving force behind the large increases. In 2021, fentanyl contributed to 76.4% of all Virginia overdose deaths.

“Fentanyl is killing people unexpectedly. It is poisoning them. It is shutting down their brains so, that they can’t breathe. This is something that we have got to start talking about,” Youngkin said.

Following the press conference, there was a roundtable discussion with community leaders and behavioral health specialists about how Virginia can effectively reduce opioid and counterfeit drug deaths.

“In Virginia Beach it has been a problem for us. We can’t duck it anymore. We’ve got to confront it head on. We’ve got to change hearts and minds,” said Virginia Beach Mayor Bobby Dyer.

10 On Your Side asked Miyares if the “One Pill Can Kill” initiative is similar to the “Just Say No” campaign from President Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy in the 1980s. The aggressive drug crackdown led to mass incarcerations of black and brown people.

“It has a message, to stay away do not put this in your body. This is going to have a disastrous impact. But we are trying to take a holistic approach.”

He wants state lawmakers to allow police to charge drug dealers with felony homicide, if the drug leads to an overdose.

“If you are dealing fentanyl that is leading to overdoses, you are murdering somebody and we’re going to hold you accountable in Virginia. Right now, we don’t have that tool. I hope they give it to us..”

Local news stations including WAVY-TV 10 will air the PSA commercial for the next 60 days.