Conferences offer insights on opioids, criminal justice, economic issues

Oringally posted on Henderson Patch by Rachael Riley rriley@hendersondispatch.com; 252-436-2842

Aug 23, 2017

 

Vance County Commissioners are looking at what national and state trends could benefit the local area.

Commissioners reflected on what they took away from the National Association of Counties and North Carolina Association of County Commissioners conferences in late July and earlier this month.

Opioid crisis:

Commissioner Gordon Wilder said he heard about "the seriousness of the opioid crisis" at both the national and state conferences.

Vance County will hold a joint forum with Granville County from 2 to 5 p.m. Oct. 17 at Vance-Granville Community College's Civic Center on opioids.

Chairman Dan Brummitt said locally the crisis is being dealt with by the health department, mental health workers and Cardinal Innovations, with the health department making it its No. 2 goal.

The "Stepping Up Initiative" is facilitated with the health department and Cardinal in the five-county region, Brummitt said.

"There are a number of things that are going on there, and we'll be more involved as we get into October at the county level," he said.

Criminal Justice:

Commissioner Yolanda Feimster said she was impressed with Durham County's criminal justice resource center.

The center offers various programs, such as graduate equivalency degree, Feimster said.

"I would like to see something like that here in Vance County, because it's one thing to say, 'OK we're going to do the Stepping Up program and have drug testing down at the jail,' but then once they come back positive then you've got to have some kind of avenue to deal with the outcomes of those who are testing positive either for substance abuse or for mental health," she said.

Brummitt said part of the Stepping Up Initiative is diversion, and court programs are in place to "get people to the right place before they get tied up in the criminal justice system."

Commissioner Carolyn Faines said hearing from the author of "Orange is the New Black," she learned the author was able to find resources listed on her county's website once leaving prison.

"Let them know when you leave prison, this is what Vance County has to offer you to help you get back on your feet and start your life back over," Faines said. "I think Vance County has a lot of resources, but I just feel like somewhere they're not being advertised or marketed enough to let people know that we have this in Vance County for you."

Jobs:

Related to the workforce, Faines said not everyone is qualified for the jobs in the area.

"We really do have a lot of programs that's out there, but nobody knows about them," Faines said. "Everybody might not go to college, but we have (resources) here that can benefit you."

Marketing and job training opportunities are discussions Brummitt said commissioners could have later this month when meeting with Vance-Granville Community College officials.

A statistic Brummitt said he took away from the state meeting was that 27 percent of Vance County residents between the ages of 16 and 24 do not have jobs.

"And that's a travesty," he said. "I talk to business people every day. They need people that do work and can be trained, and so there are training opportunities that we might be missing."

The other concern, he said, is the population that can't pass drug tests for the jobs.

Commissioner Leo Kelly agreed with Brummitt, and said another factor is work ethic, or people calling in and not showing up to work.

"I don't know where you need to start with in terms of educating and starting with changing that mindset, whether you go to faith-based groups or homes and parents, but that particular attitude needs to change," Kelly said.

Revitilization:

At both state and national conferences, Kelly said he was impressed with downtown tours and seeing downtown revitalization efforts in Durham and Columbus, Ohio.

He cited old tobacco buildings in Durham being revitalized, or an old bank building now used as a hotel.

"I'm particularly interested in seeing how we can look at things in this area and make some changes for revitalizing buildings and use assets in the community to attract to people to the area," Kelly said.

Brummitt said both communities have public-private partnerships.

Kelly said he's also interested in learning about what attracts people to Henderson to market the area and learned "millennials and older people want the same things."

"They wanted access to things, again downtown. They wanted access to cultural things. They wanted access to shops and things of interest," Kelly said.

Technology and infrastructure:

Brummitt agreed, but said infrastructure and high-speed internet should be in place, too.

Both Brummitt and Wilder said they heard about cyber security and reducing potential risks at the conferences.

Brummitt said he'd like for the county's technology committee to meet to review the county's technology and cyber security policies.

Along with technology, Brummitt said solar is something to consider.

"The next phase is probably going to be rooftop, and we need to make sure that our codes are up to speed on those types of things," Brummitt said.

In summarizing his personal takeaway from the conferences, Brummitt said growth and development should be looked at regionally.

"We've got to stop thinking about this 3-mile or this 5-mile circle study. We've got to think about a 30- to 50-mile study and how to develop our region together," he said. "That's why I think it's important that we stay engaged with other counties and move things in that way."

 

 

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