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Opioid Task Force making progress; increase risk of heroin abuse

By Charlotte Smith

Bladen County Commissioner Charles Ray Peterson, Chairman of the county’s Opioid Task Force opened the meeting calling for prayer. First Sergeant Richard Allen with the Bladen County Sheirff’s Office started the discussions with updates on the success of the community outreach educational presentations.

Churches and other civic organizations are being informed about the Opioid abuse, the impact it has on communities, medication disposal options, treatment centers and support by Allen and his committee from the task force. He reported his team continuing to give two to three educational presentations per month at different locations throughout the county.

Allen also mentioned some positive outcomes Brunswick County’s Sheriff’s Office is having with a program assisting drug addicts who volunteer for help. Captain Steve Lanier from Brunswick County’s Sheriff’s Office and Sgt. Allen have been working together to formulate a program for Bladen County to assist drug addicts with treatment.

Allen suggested the local task force begin a program similar to the Brunswick County program which allows addicts to receive assistance when volunteering for help. Financial assistance if needed may be used with funds from a grant Bladen County was previously awarded, according to Allen. 

Bladen County District Attorney Jon David was next on the agenda. David stated his office’s strategy to combat the Opioid Epidemic. He explained his team has shifted the focus from a war on drugs to a war on drug dealers, and more holistically on how to overcome this opioid crisis.

He said, “It’s a battle that has to be waged on four different fronts right now.”

David’s list of ways to over come the opioid crisis included prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, and enforcement.

He mentioned working with Congressman David Rouzer on an informational session scheduled for July 30th starting at 6 p.m. at the Coastline Convention Center “to go over the four legs of the same stool” to overcome the opioid crisis.

The recent arrest of Dr. Kim was used as an example by District Attorney David on the crack down on healthcare providers unethically prescribing pills.

Pills are the leading gateway drug to heroin according to David. He cautioned those in attendance that heroin use may rise due to the supply and demand issues addicts are now facing since Dr. Kim’s arrest.

Sgt. Allen said law enforcement is seeing an uptick in the use of crack in the southern most part of the county since Dr. Kim’s arrest. There has also been a reported increase in call volume due to patients without their prescriptions at local Managed Care Organizations such as Trillium in Columbus County and Eastpointe in Bladen County according to David and other task force members.

An even worse problem in the community would be the people addicted to pills to turn to heroin according to David. Pharmacist, Rebecca Hester with the Medicine Shop in Bladenboro explained the importance to all task force members on making the information about treatment options available everywhere possible since some citizens are no longer receiving their unethically prescribed medications.

Hester also announced a prescription used to help addicts with treatment by the name of Suboxone, went generic. This means the medicine, Suboxone, and its generic used to help with treatment for addicts may be more affordable in the coming months.

Cape Fear Teen Challenge representatives were at the meeting. Amy Munn with the recovery center said their open house was successful. Pastor Holly said they started taking residents on July 1.

Rev. David Foster with the Bladen Baptist Association and Sondra Guyton with Bladen Community College spoke on the collaboration between the college and Southeastern Carolina Crossroads (SECC) to assist their residents with their educational needs. Guyton also said they are working on ways to help the residents become more work force ready after they finish the program at SECC. Guyton also extended the same collaborating services to Cape Fear Teen Challenge residents.

Greg Martin said the grant committee on the task force will continue to pursue other grants to help fight the opioid crisis. The committee did submit an application for one grant, but the task force was not awarded the grant. There are more grants the committee will be meeting about to submit applications.

Last but not least the group discussed community events. There is a Faith Leaders Brunch scheduled at Bladen Community College on Saturday, July 21 starting at 8:30 a.m. and going until about noon. The brunch is a joint effort from the task force to reach more faith based leaders about the opioid crisis and gaining their assistance in the battle against drug addiction.

Sondra Guyton with Bladen Community College announced continued CPR classes being held in East Arcadia and White Oak. Cheryl Harris with Eastpointe announced Overdose Awareness Day and September being Recovery Month.

The group agreed to participate with education and information during the upcoming Back to School event on Saturday, August 18 at the Cape Fear Farmer’s Market. The group will also hold an Overdose Awareness Day ceremony at the Bladen County Courthouse on the lawn at 4 p.m.

Commissioner Peterson announced the next task force meeting will be held on Tuesday, August 13 at 2 p.m.

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