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My View: Shocked from Opioid Task Force meeting

By Charlotte Smith

Opioid abuse, mental health issues and sex trafficking are some of the issues we are facing in today’s communities. This past Tuesday, the fight against some of these evils were discussed and some action was taken to stop our cultural decline into decay.

Bladen County’s local task force meeting took on a different form this month, which left some in attendance with more questions than answers. The problem still has many missing pieces at every level; local, state and national. Slow processes and lack of treatment, religious and educational support are discouraging.

Capt. Lars Paul with the Fayetteville Police Department

As folks gathered at the Bladen County Health Department to hear about the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition several items struck me as extremely odd. To begin on a positive note, Capt. Lars Paul with the Fayetteville Police Department gave a refreshing presentation about his department’s Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (L.E.A.D.) program. Paul did not sugar coat the hard topics we face as we deal with drug and prostitution crimes. He did not worry too much about being politically correct, which is a bright idea when facing such grime situations.

Sheriff Jim McVicker and his team started a program similar to L.E.A.D. in our county jail. He and other local law enforcement officers were present for the training and active in the conversations. Commissioners Dr. Opheila Munn-Goins and Charles Ray Peterson and County Manager Greg Martin were also listening intently.

As Paul testified to the improvements he has seen in the crime rates and drug use since his department started their L.E.A.D. program, the next speaker came in late, looking diseased and unnerved. Chicken pox with a dash of anxiety is what first came to mind, but as I watched him more closely, he seemed to be way too fidgety and hyped up to be sick.

The offbeat person, who will not be named, spoke about the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition (NCHRC). The disheveled man gave his presentation about the NCHRC program which engages communities with advocacy, resources, coalition building and direct services for people impacted by drug use, sex work, HIV and hepatitis.

This program does have a genuinely smart idea the speaker shared as he adjusted his pants and read from the slide show presentation. He said, “We believe in meeting people where they are at with their drug addiction.” The speaker’s presentation gave information on how Naloxone, a free overdose kit the coalition gives out and how many lives the kits have saved in North Carolina. The presentation noted the success the syringe exchange has seen in reducing infections.

However, the topic most recovering addicts admit helped them the most is support and treatment. However, the NCHRC representative seemed to glaze over those topics. When I asked how the NCHRC assists addicts with support and treatment, the usual answer popped up. The addicts are referred to services on a list.

In other words, it seems NCHRC’s program “meets” the addicts where they are by bringing them back to life with Naloxone, if they overdose, giving them clean syringes for drug use, and last and seemingly least, a list of services in the area for treatment and support. While he spoke about Naloxone officals at the meeting announced that earlier on Tuesday morning, a young Bladen County man died due to a drug overdose after he was brought back from an overdose Monday evening with Naloxone.

On the NCHRC’s website there is a lot of information about Naloxone and the syringe exchange, but I only found one link that works leading to resources for treatment and support. The site does admit issues with treatment saying, “Many people in North Carolina cannot get treatment for drug dependence, and many health programs and services refuse to help people who use drugs.”

Side note, before I move on to the next point, the unusual speaker from NCHRC was found after the meeting to be suffering from the effects of an opioid type substance according to officials. Of all people, you would think the speaker with the Coalition would be receiving support and treatment for his addictions.

I’m try not to bring up a problem without a solution. The overlapping mental health, drug abuse, and sex trafficking battles we are facing are worth fighting against.

According to drugabuse.com, the following addicts had these quotes.

Russell Brand: Actor, Comedian, Author said, “The mentality and behavior of drug addicts and alcoholics is wholly irrational until you understand that they are completely powerless over their addiction and unless they have structured help, they have no hope.”

Victoria: Stay-at-Home Mother, said, “Seeking treatment was not easy for me. I was a classic ‘in denial’ addict. As a stay-at-home mom, I drank wine all day, but nothing really seemed to be wrong. One day, my teenager daughter and husband had a mini-intervention with me. I felt so embarrassed and guilty. I think I was drinking because I was lonely and a bit depressed. However, the community I’ve found in recovery and through AA has been incredibly supportive. I’ve regained my happiness and heath.”

Nicole: Registered Nurse, said, “When I first started taking prescription pills, I didn’t think I had a problem. I had a good job and lots of friends. After a while though, I lost my job and slowly my friends. Thing is, I barely even noticed or cared. Finally, I got treatment after horrible withdrawals. Now that I am in recovery, I understand how blinding my addiction actually was.”

The common thread in the three comments from recovering addicts is family or community support and treatment. The Bladen Ministerial Association and the Bladen County School Board has been asked repeatedly to help with this battle. We need our churches and educators to help us in this epidemic. Preachers, deacons, school counsellors, educators, and parents we need you!

Here is my three prong approach. First and most importantly, pray. We need prayer. Pray to God for wisdom on how we can help those in need. We are One Country, Under God and we need Him!

Second point, we do need to love people right where they are in their life. No one is perfect. Shame does not fix things. We need to encourage one another, not judge one another. Some of our citizens have a drug problem, we need to advocate for them to get help.


Before I move on to my final approach, I would like to say something to the faith based community and government leaders. In the book of Jeremiah God turns His face from His people. The people were practicing their religious rituals and the King even made new laws, but there was a heart problem. There was no relationship with the Creator. We have to put God first and seek His guidance or all that we do, is in vain.

Now, I am almost off my soap box. Last but not least we need to fight the war plaguing America today. We need to learn from our past, arm ourselves and take up the fight. Our citizens are slaves to drugs which also creates sex slaves and diseases. Slavery is alive and growing in America. Treatment, education and support is an absolute must to fight this war.

Talk to your elected officials, get involved, help your church leaders stay connected to the real issues. Our county, state and country is a land of milk and honey. Let us not be apathetic.

Peace and Love.

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