RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Wake County hosted its first community meeting Tuesday to begin to gather input on how it can best address the opioid epidemic.
The county is set to receive $35 million over the next 18 years from the National Opioid Settlement.
"The opioid epidemic hits close to home for so many families, and even if your family hasn't faced addiction problems, I'm sure you know a family that has," said Sig Hutchinson, chair of the Wake County Board of Commissioners. "For all these reasons and more, it's important for residents to be able to weigh in on the best use of these funds to help the individuals and families in our community."
Nearly 200 people died from an overdose in Wake County last year and 1,000 ER visits were connected to overdoses. The county reported a higher rate of overdose reversals with naloxone than the state average last year.
Around 28,000 North Carolinians have died from a drug overdose from 2000-2020, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS). Around nine people died a day from a drug overdose in 2020, based on NCDHHS data.
Tuesday's meeting brought together more than 250 leaders, healthcare workers and community members to brainstorm ways to reduce these statistics. Attendees highlighted the need to decrease barriers to treatment, reduce stigma and increase bed capacity within the county.
Megan Peevey with Recovery Communities of North Carolina said she's seen some of the needs in the county firsthand while she suffered from substance use disorder for a decade.
"I think there are a lot of gaps. There are a lot of gaps between treatment providers that cost money, people that are uninsured, underinsured, unemployed, don't have anywhere to live, access to harm reduction supply, harm reduction services -- there's a lot of work to be done," Peevey said.
She said the addition of these federal dollars excites her, but it is important for it to fund the right things so it can have a real impact on people's lives.
Peevey said she would like to see more money put into post-overdose response teams and giving people safe places to go.
Some other strategies the county is considering include recovery support services, post-overdose response teams, addiction treatment for incarcerated people and evidence-based addiction treatment.
"That's what is so exciting about our work today, we have a whole toolbox of ideas," Hutchinson said.
The county plans to publish an online survey to further gather input about how to prioritize strategies.
The results of the study along with research done by the Wake County Overdose Task Force will help lead the county's recommendations.
Next month, Wake County commissioners will make final decisions about which strategies receive funding.
The National Opioid Settlement is distributing a total of $26 billion nationwide.
For more information on Wake County's progress and efforts, click here.