Wake County looking for public input on how to spend $65M opioid settlement

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Friday, March 15, 2024
Wake County looking for public input on how to spend $65M opioid settlement
"We're seeing more teenagers with pills," Justin Garetty, who works at Healing Transitions, said.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Wake County will receive $65 million during the next 18 years as part of a national opioid settlement.

County leaders are turning to the public for input and feedback on how to best use the money, especially in communities harmed by the opioid epidemic.

"Input from the community is crucial to guiding future decisions on how we use these funds and ensuring they have the biggest possible impact in communities at the front lines of the overdose crisis," Wake County Board of Commissioners Chair and Co-Chair of the NCACC Presidential Initiative Shinica Thomas said in a news release.

A community meeting will be held on Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the McKimmon Center at NC State.

The impact of the opioid crisis is far-reaching in the community.

Health data from the National Institute of Health shows opioid overdoses nearly quadrupled in the U.S. from 2010 to 2021. From 2000 to 2022, more than 36,000 North Carolinians lost their lives to drug overdose.

John Russell of Fayetteville lost his two siblings, Alicia and Whitley Russell, to fentanyl poisoning just two years apart.

His pain fueled a new passion. John is working to help other families impacted by drug overdoses through his organization, The Butterfly EFX.

At Friday's meeting, John will be sharing what is working in his community, including peer support.

"Live experience is what is needed so people can understand," he said, "and related to individuals that have been there, and been through the substance incarceration."

Justin Garetty, a rapid response administrator at the non-profit organization Healing Transitions, said the funding should be used to help young people avoid a life of drug use.

Garetty works directly with recovery services in Wake County.

"We're seeing more teenagers with pills," he said. "They think they're taking one pill, pressed with fentanyl. (They have) no tolerance... and they are out."

It's happening more frequently than one might think.

Garetty shared that his team saw seven to 10 overdoses just this week.

Previous community meetings held in 2022 and 2023 helped the County identify four key strategies and areas of focus that are currently receiving funds through June 2024:

  • Opioid use disorder treatment
  • Care navigation and recovery support
  • Early identification and intervention
  • Housing access and support

SEE ALSO | Ad giant Publicis Health agrees to $350M settlement over claims it helped fuel opioid crisis