Health officials & faith leaders hope settlement money makes big difference in opioid crisis

Settlement money to make a big difference in opioid crisis
Published: Jun. 6, 2022 at 8:37 PM EDT
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JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - North Carolina will soon receive $750 million in settlement funding for substance abuse resources and treatment.

The state Department of Health and Human Services reported an average of nine deaths a day in 2020 from a drug overdose. That was a 40% increase from 2019.

Faith-based organizations are optimistic that the settlement funding will bring substance abuse resources to counties in serious need.

“There’s currently 47 syringe exchange programs across the state and they cover about 50 counties and so because we have 100 counties in North Carolina, obviously not all of the counties are covered,” Elizabeth Brewington of the North Carolina Council of Churches said.

“We really are every day working to increase access to care,” Deepa Avulaone, NCDHHS Substance Abuse Services director said. “One of the things we’ve recently done is provided funding to communities to have mobile units, for example, so communities that are harder to reach can get access via mobile clinic to behavioral health care services, including treatment for opioid use disorder.”

Pitt County will receive $9 million in settlement funding over the course of 18 years.

Onslow County will receive $10 million. Both counties received the first payment this spring.

Sherry Slater, Onslow County assistant county manager, spoke about what the next steps are.

“What we want to make sure we do is to have our stakeholders, those folks who know the most about the problem and have the best idea about solutions that will actually be impactful... I don’t just mean folks with MD behind their name or folks with psychology or psychiatry degrees... will have family members who have been impacted. Folks who are in recovery who can tell us where we can meet you to have the most impact in the situation.”

Sherry Slater, Onslow County assistant county manager

The Pitt County Coalition on Substance Abuse is scheduled to meet on Tuesday to prioritize the allocation of the settlement funds.

The county says the next payment of its portion of the $750 million settlement is expected to be allocated by the fall.

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