Wake County Commissioners approve new plan and funding to combat opioid addiction

Tamara Scott Image
Thursday, September 8, 2022
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The opioid epidemic has touched many families and Wake County has approved a new plan to improve prevention and treatment.

WAKE COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- In 2020 more than nine North Carolinians a day lost their lives to opioid overdoses.

It's an epidemic that's touched many families and Wake County has approved a new plan to improve prevention and treatment.

Diane and Will Stephenson have a tragic history with opioid abuse.

In their garden at their new home sits a memorial for their two sons, William and Parker.

"Angel wings you were taken away but in our hearts you will always stay. William and Parker," reads the memorial.

The parents of five boys lost two of their sons to drugs abuse. Parker in 2018. William seven months ago.

"Parker's was almost all fentanyl and William 3 times the lethal amount," explained their parents

Though heartbreaking, the Stephenson's story is not unique.

National statistics show 90,000 people died of a drug overdose in 2020 and nearly 200 in just Wake County.

"There has been a settlement with the drug manufacturers and for about $26 billion of which way counties receiving 36 million of that over 80 years, and we're allocating almost $5 million this year, to begin to address the issue," Chair Commissioner Sig Hutchinson said.

On Tuesday, Wake County Commissioners approved a plan that will fund four key initiatives for the next two years.

Opioid Use Disorder Treatment ($2 million)

Fund medication-assisted treatment for uninsured or underinsured people (with any medication approved for this purpose by the FDA) and assist them in getting additional help from community providers.

Provide flexible resources to support the needs of those going through opioid use disorder treatment.

Care Navigation ($1.5 million)

Establish and equip a team of navigators to help residents access addiction treatment, recovery support, harm reduction services, primary healthcare or any other services they need to improve their health and well-being.

Provide flexible resources to navigators to prevent harm and help people overcome barriers to accessing and continuing treatment services.

Early Identification and Intervention ($600,000)

Expand education and training programs for youth, parents, community groups, coaches, youth ministers, employers and others who encounter young people.

Housing Access and Support ($750,000)

Provide access to housing for people with opioid use disorder including supportive housing, recovery housing, housing assistance programs, training for housing providers, or recovery housing programs that allow or integrate FDA-approved medication with other support services.

"We have to deal with the stigma, that we have to recognize that opioid addiction is a chronic disease that's going to involve relapses, and a lifelong struggle to stay clean, all of which have to be dealt with over time with funding and support," Hutchinson added.

Diane said it was difficult at first getting help.

"When you find out that your children have a problem where do you turn?" she explained.

For her family dealing with this has never been easy.

"Families need to start addressing this opioid situation with kids at an early age and tell them the dangers," said Will.

"How do you explain to an eight year old that you'll never see your uncle again?" Diane added tearfully.

Now Will and Diane advocate for change and hope no more families have to find ways to keep their loved ones memory alive

"At first we were very quiet and we trying to do it on our own, you cannot you have to have a huge support system," said Diane.