Governor Roy Cooper today met with leading professionals from law enforcement, substance abuse treatment and health care about the best ways to fight the opioid crisis in North Carolina.
“The opioid crisis has devastated communities and families across our state, and we must work together to help our neighbors struggling with substance use disorders,” Gov. Cooper said. “Innovative partnerships among law enforcement, treatment centers, and recovery programs are focused on putting an end to addiction.”
Cooper and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen co-hosted a discussion with physicians, first responders, public health experts, community treatment and recovery program leaders, law enforcement and families impacted by opioid abuse from across the Triad. The discussion focused on strategies that show promise as communities come to grips with the opioid epidemic.
Participants included: Jim Albright, Guilford County Emergency Services Director; Dr. Melanie Belgian, Medical Director, Guilford County Emergency Management; Chase Holleman, Naloxone Program Coordinator, Caring Services, Inc.; Mat Sandifer, Director, Triad Behavioral Resources and New Vision Therapy; Victoria Whitt, CEO of the Sandhills Center, local management entity for behavioral health; Chief Kenneth Shultz, High Point Police; and Major Chuck Williamson, Guilford County Sheriff’s Office.
Governor Cooper’s 2017-2018 budget proposal includes more than $12 million in community mental health funding to address the opioid crisis. This will provide services including individual and group therapy, coupled with medications, to serve approximately 2,500 individuals statewide. It also includes $2 million for local law enforcement efforts to fight opioid abuse.
Governor Cooper and Secretary Cohen asked the group gathered in High Point today to help collaborate on prevention, treatment and recovery solutions. They stressed the importance of encouraging individuals with opioid use disorders in their treatment and recovery – stressing that the road to recovery is a long journey, and not a quick fix.
In early March, Secretary Cohen called on clinicians across North Carolina for assistance in fighting the opioid crisis. “Our state is uniquely positioned to help end this epidemic,” she told clinicians. “We are working in a coordinated fashion to ramp up prevention, treatment and recovery efforts. But, we can’t do it alone, we need your help.”
Since 1999, opioid overdose has claimed the lives of more than 13,000 North Carolinians, and four North Carolina cities rank in the top 25 worst cities for opioid abuse. Opioid deaths involving pain medications are the leading cause of overdose death.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services describes the rise in deaths from the use and misuse of opioids, a class of drugs that include heroin and prescription pain medications, as an epidemic. The surge has been largely fueled by the promotion of prescription of opioids to treat pain in the late 1990s and early 2000s. It also has been fueled by the transition to heroin as a substitute for opioid medications as prescribing became more restricted.