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Loudoun law enforcement, mental health experts team up with former NBA player’s Project Purple

Chris Herren, a former NBA basketball player, will speak Feb. 15 at Riverside High School in Leesburg about his rise to fame and his fall and recovery after drug addiction.

The addiction almost took his life.

Now drug and alcohol-free since Aug. 1, 2008, Herren has refocused his life to put his sobriety and family above all else. In 2012, The Herren Project launched a national anti-substance abuse campaign, Project Purple, to encourage people of all ages to stand up to substance abuse.

As part of an initiative to battle substance abuse in Loudoun County, the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office, Loudoun County Public Schools, Loudoun County Mental Health, Substance Abuse and Developmental Services and the Drug Enforcement Administration have partnered with The Herren Project to bring awareness to the dangers of substance abuse.

According to Project Purple’s mission, the initiative gives students motivation and support as they embrace the message of education and awareness. Students learn that they do not need drugs and alcohol to meet life’s challenges.

“Chris Herren’s story and the Project Purple initiative will reach our high school students who are at the vulnerable age where peer pressure is at its height,” said Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman in a prepared statement. “We need to make sure they understand the consequences of substance abuse and Chris’ rise and fall exemplifies how abusing alcohol and prescription medications can lead you on a path to destruction.”

Herren was a basketball legend in his Massachusetts hometown and dreamed of playing for the Boston Celtics. He realized his lifelong dream of playing in the NBA in 1999 and was traded to the Boston Celtics after his rookie season. He lost it all to substance abuse.

Herren began experimenting with cocaine at the age of 18. His drug use escalated to prescription medication, and eventually to heroin before a near fatal overdose in June 2008.

The goals of The Herren Project and the Project Purple Initiative are to positively impact the lives of those suffering with addiction by providing effective treatment navigation, educate youth and at-risk populations on the importance of a healthy lifestyle and provide techniques to handle pressure within their lives, their community or their family situation and provides scholarships to programs, clinics and camps to increase self-confidence, motivation and develop a firm foundation on which to build success.

The Herren Project and the Project Purple Initiative are part of the ongoing efforts by the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office to address the rising use of heroin and related overdoses that have impacted citizens in and around Loudoun County county. In April 2015, the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office formed the Heroin Operations Team (HOT), a regional heroin initiative. HOT employs a comprehensive approach that includes enforcement (at all levels), education and prevention by incorporating local, state and federal law enforcement.

In Loudoun County, the number of fatal heroin overdoses increased significantly between 2013 and 2014, however, collective efforts in Loudoun County in 2015 have resulted in a decline of fatal overdoses, according to the sheriff's office.

Herren will speak at 6 p.m. Feb. 15 at Riverside High School.

More information on The Herren Project can be found at http://www.theherrenproject.org.

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