Opioid Epidemic

Vince Winkel / WHQR

The battle against opioid addiction in Wilmington and across the country is rising to a new level.  North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein came to the Port City to discuss the growing investigation into drug manufacturers. 

Vince Winkel / WHQR

Four of the top 25 cities in the country for opioid abuse are in North Carolina. Wilmington is number one, according to a report from Castlight Health, a San Francisco-based healthcare information company. 

Vince Winkel / WHQR

On Wednesday morning, the Wilmington Police Department announced another tool in the battle against the region’s opioid epidemic. It’s called LEAD, and it involves a variety of agencies.

Vince Winkel

On Monday, we reported on House Bill 324, which would create quick-response teams to deal with opiate overdoses in the region. Today we look at the STOP Act, which would attack the opioid epidemic using a different strategy.  

Vince Winkel

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein was in Wilmington Monday to discuss the opioid epidemic with the area’s state and local elected officials, law enforcement, and health care providers. There is a bipartisan effort in the works to bring a pilot project to Wilmington to treat opiate overdoses. House Bill 324 would create a quick-response team that would respond to overdoses with additional emergency support.

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Last month, Deb Butler was sworn in to the North Carolina House of Representatives to fill Susi Hamilton’s seat. As a Democratic newcomer to the General Assembly, Representative Butler has found one issue that drives lawmakers to reach across the aisle: the opioid epidemic.

Thursday morning, North Carolina state legislators, including Representative Ted Davis, Junior (R-New Hanover County) and Senator Bill Rabon (R-Brunswick County), held a press conference to announce the introduction of the STOP Act.  It’s legislation intended to address the opioid epidemic in North Carolina by "ensuring smarter prescribing and dispensing of highly-addictive prescription drugs", according to bill sponsors.  The bill would also provide funding for treatment and recovery. 

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New Jersey recently passed one of the nation’s most comprehensive laws to combat the growing opioid and heroin crisis.  Tennessee is battling its own opioid epidemic as is Nebraska, Virginia, Connecticut, Washington State, New York, Wisconsin, Montana – the list goes on.  And as we’ve reported on this program before – Wilmington, North Carolina and the larger Cape Fear region is near the top of a national list for its abuse of opioids and heroin. 

Cape Fear Guardian ad Litem Association (CFGALA) is seeking more volunteers to advocate for abused, neglected, and dependent children in the court system. According to veteran Guardian Lynn Fender, the number of children in need of Guardians continues to rise-exponentially. CFGALA is holding 2 open houses for people interested in learning more about becoming a volunteer in New Hanover and Pender counties on Monday, February 13. The information sessions are 11:30am-1:00pm and 5:30pm-7:00pm at 320 Chestnut Street, Suite 618 in downtown Wilmington. Listen to Lynne above to hear more. 

By Psychonaught (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Wilmington, North Carolina is at the top of an unfortunate list.  One study published last year, based on analysis of numbers from the Centers for Disease Control, shows more than 11.5% of the population abuses opioids.  Opioid abusers tend to live in the rural south – according to the Castlight report

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Ken Vest retired from television news; he retired to Wilmington with his family in 2015. He studied Drama and English Literature at Texas State University, and he's a writer and actor. When tragedy struck his family 5 years ago, Ken turned to theatre as one way to move through grief - and to help others. In October, he successfully raised enough funds to produce the play he wrote: Inside Job.

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In April, a study from Castlight Health  reported that Wilmington, North Carolina has the highest rate of opioid abuse in the nation. This study was solely based on the abuse of prescription opioids, such as hydrocodones, oxycodones, morphine, fentanyl and the like, but heroin is the non-prescription player in the mix. New Hanover County has the second highest rate of heroin deaths in the state.