Council hears more on opioid abuse

Published 9:22 am Wednesday, January 22, 2020

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Opioid abuse, the county’s efforts to combat its spread and first-hand accounts from a victim of the outbreak were topics of presentation and discussion by Albemarle City Council at its Tuesday meeting.

Health and Human Services Director David Jenkins delivered a presentation to council members on the causes of opioid abuse, as well as measures being taken to curb the problem.

“Drug abuse often begins as an effort to avoid physical and/or psychological pain,” Jenkins said.

He said addicts often come from living situations in which abuse, neglect or household dysfunction are prevalent.

Jenkins also provided the county’s overdose statistics for the last three years, which rose from 189 in 2017 to a high of 284 in 2018, before falling slightly to 258 the past year.

“Because heroin and fentanyl are easily available and cheap, more people are dying,” said Jenkins, who provided statistics on profits made by drug dealers.

“A dealer who buys $1,000 worth of heroin in the USA, chops it up and sells it can make around $4,000,” he said. “On the other hand, for $1,000 worth of fentanyl purchased in China, a dealer can make a profit of up to $7.8 million selling it here.”

With such drugs easily available, first responders and emergency medical personnel see the overdose problem early and often, according to Dale Chandler, Stanly County EMS Training Officer.

“We are funded by a Blue Cross-Blue Shield research grant which allows us a specialist who is available to respond to opioid-related calls 12 hours a day, seven days a week, and to follow up with patients one to three days afterwards,” said Chandler, who spoke along with Jenkins on preventive measures implemented by the organization’s paramedic division.

“The main goal of the program is to follow patients until we can get them into treatment,” he said.

Chandler said the program is the first of its kind in the United States, noting officials from Wisconsin had inquired earlier in the day about the program, which they were considering implementing as well.

“We (Stanly County Health and Human Services) have procured approximately $1.4 million in grants,” Jenkins said, “as well as funding from HRSA (Health Resources and Services Administration) provided for prevention, treatment and recovery, and funding from NCDHHS (NC Department of Health and Human Services) for harm reduction.”

Following Jenkins’ presentation, Bradley Kimrey, a Stanly County native and recovering opioid addict, addressed council.

“God bless you for what you are doing,” Kimrey said to Jenkins and Chandler, before recounting a number of obstacles he has experienced and observed during his recovery efforts.

“People don’t know where to get help,” he said.

Publicity and advertising efforts often do not reach those in need of assistance, he said.

Mayor Ronnie Michael asked Kimrey what could be done to publicize assistance programs.

“There have been multiple articles in the local newspaper about what is being done,” he said, “so how should we advertise?”

“Provide information on outpatient programs as well as inpatient ones,” Kimrey said.
Kimrey also asked if more can be done by law enforcement to slow the influx of illegal drugs to the county.

“Some known dealers continue to operate,” Kimrey said. “We could solve a lot of the problem by stopping them.”

Mayor Pro-Tem Martha Sue Hall suggested Kimrey discuss his concerns with Jenkins.

“He doesn’t have a badge, but he does have over a million dollars in resources,” she said, adding Kimrey’s input could help in getting the word out.

“It takes courage to talk about this,” Councilman Bill Aldridge said. “I applaud your courage and what you’re doing.”

Toby Thorpe is a freelance contributor for The Stanly News & Press.