NC is being hit hard by the opioid epidemic. Wilmington topped the 2016 national list of cities most affected, with >11% of the population abusing opiates. Hickory, Jackson, and Fayetteville also made the top 25. NC opioid overdoses are rising faster than in the rest of the Southeast. The economic cost of the epidemic is substantial. Some police departments are running out of money because of the cost related to providing naloxone (an antidote to opiate overdose) to addicts.
NC's response to this crisis is affected by a Republican-led legislative change in the provision of mental health services dating back to 2012 and decreases in mental health funding since then. Addicts are too often shunted to jail instead of treatment because of the limited number of mental health beds, especially for those lacking health insurance. Read more about the legislative responses to mental health/addiction treatment shortfalls here.
On the positive side, the NCGA passed a law that took effect in January that limits the quantity of opioids being prescribed in hopes of reducing the oversupply of painkillers leading to addiction and overdoses. The flip side of that law is that some people with chronic pain that doesn't respond to non-opiate approaches struggle to get the pain treatment they need. There are no simple answers.
Interested in learning more?
- Read about the NC Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) plan for addressing this epidemic
- WUNC ran an excellent multi-part series on the opioid crisis in NC: Hitting Home
- Transforming NC's mental health and substance use systems
- New state-funded community grants to combat opioid crisis.
If this issue is important to you or your community, let your NCGA legislators know that you'd like them to provide more funding during the May session to support DHHS efforts. Ask your NCGA candidates how they plan to address this issue. VOTE accordingly.