Opioid deaths and related issues are discussed at community meeting

​Originally posted on the Henderson Patch by David Irvine dirvine@hendersondispatch.com; 252-436-2838

Aug 22, 2017


The death rate from drug poisoning is increasing nationally and in North Carolina. The deaths of celebrities like Prince and Michael Jackson have put a spotlight on the issue.

But the problem is not restricted to superstars. USA Today quoted Andrew Kolodny, executive director of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, as saying, "Celebrity overdoses are just the tip of the iceberg of an epidemic."

Resources are being marshalled locally and across North Carolina to fight the epidemic. Cardinal Innovations Healthcare established Vance-Granville Community Partners, a coalition of community organizations, to focus local efforts in dealing with misuse of opioids and other issues related to mental health, substance abuse and developmental disabilities.

Community Partners met in the Cardinal-Five County office in downtown Henderson on Tuesday to get an update. Cindy Haynes, population health coordinator, Northern Piedmont Community Care, Duke Population Health Management Office in Durham, told the group that the U.S. death rate from drug poisoning now exceeds the death rates for motor vehicles and firearms.

The problem is not restricted to illegal drugs. In North Carolina the number of deaths from prescription drug overdose in 2015 exceeded the combined number of deaths from cocaine and heroin, she said.

More than 116 million people in the United States suffer from chronic pain, Haynes said. In addition to a multi-million dollar annual cost, the extent of physical suffering has led to an increase in the use — and misuse — of painkillers.

Haynes describes how naloxone can be used to counter an opioid overdose. Narcan, a brand name for naloxone, provides a nasal spray to be used in the case of an opioid overdose. It comes in a two-dose package and costs $150. Spraying it into the nostrils of an overdose victim leads to withdrawal.

Haynes said she has provided naloxone training for local law enforcement agencies.

Elliot Clark, senior community executive for the Five County office, said 60 Narcan kits have been received to be distributed within the five counties the organization serves. Narcan may be covered by health insurance or Medicaid.

Tyisha Terry, education specialist with the Granville-Vance District Health Department, described Project V.I.B.R.A.N.T, a partnership of local agencies to prevent drug overdose.

A local needle and syringe exchange program has been implemented to get those items out of circulation. Users who take advantage of the exchange program are more likely to go into treatment, she added.

Gina DeMent, of Cardinal Innovations, reminded the group that September is National Recovery Month and October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Look for events during those months, she said.


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