Stanly to receive $4.7 million over 18 years from settlement funds to battle opioid epidemic

Stanly County has received numerous grants over the years, including $1 million in federal funding in 2019, to combat the ongoing opioid epidemic, which has ravaged not just Stanly but large swaths of the country.

The county even formed a community paramedic program a few years ago, one of the first of its kind in the state, to target people suffering from opioid overdoses and help connect them with local treatment options such as Monarch.

The multi-pronged effort to reduce drug overdoses from a variety of angles, including with help from law enforcement agencies, the health department and treatment organizations, appears to have made a difference. After leading the state in opioid overdoses for much of the past decade, the county last summer fell out of the state’s monthly list of top 10 counties with the highest rates of overdoses leading to hospital visits.

Since 2020, Stanly County has had a 21 percent decrease in overdose deaths and a 20 percent decrease in overdoses, according to a letter sent to the commissioners from Stanly County Health and Human Services Board Chair Jann Lowder in early May.

As much progress as the county has made, additional financial help is on the way. Speaking before the Board of Commissioners this month, County Manager Andy Lucas estimated the county will receive close to $4.7 million over an 18-year period from the national opioid settlement reached last year between the country’s three major drug distributers — Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen and McKesson — and pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson. The settlement provided the groundwork for billions of dollars to begin flowing into communities across the country for addiction treatment, prevention services and other expenses from the epidemic.

North Carolina is set to receive about $750 million over the 18 years, 85 percent of which will go to counties and local municipalities.

Lucas told commissioners Stanly has already received almost $180,000 from the settlement, which totaled $26 billion, and anticipates receiving another $395,000 within the coming months.

Upon Lucas’ request, the commissioners unanimously approved a resolution appropriating $60,000 from the Opioid Settlement Special Revenue Fund to Gateway of Hope for transitional housing support. Gateway of Hope is run by pastor Larry Wilkins and is set to begin construction later this year on a long-term rehabilitation center in New London to help treat patients struggling with addiction. Wilkins also oversees four sober houses in Locust.

The county had used funds from the $1 million federal Health Resources and Services Administration grant to help cover the cost of transitional housing for Gateway of Hope, but the funding will end at the end of August. The financial support through the funds from the national settlement will last from Sept. 1 to Aug. 31, 2023.

Wilkins is grateful for the new funds and continued support from the county, saying the organization would not be able to continue without support.

Lucas is confident the funds from the settlement will help Stanly continue to reduce the impact of opioid epidemic within the community.

“These Opioid Settlement dollars will enable the County to continue its work with community partners to mitigate the impacts of opioid misuse disorder,” Lucas said later. “The County will collaborate with local nonprofits and healthcare entities to help those battling addiction in an effort to save lives and help folks break the cycle of addiction.”

“These funds will support best practice strategies that have demonstrated an ability to improve outcomes,” he added, “such as harm reduction, medication assisted treatment, substance abuse treatment, recovery support, transitional housing, and more.”

Stanly County Health and Human Services Board has proposed an annual budget of $343,000 for at least the next three years to support organizations and strategies that have had success in reducing overdoses within the community, according to Lowder’s May letter to the commissioners. The proposed funding includes:

  • MAT Treatment and Counseling via Nazareth Child & Family Connection — $100,000;
  • EMS Community Paramedic Program (full-time) — $66,500;
  • Peer Support EMS (full-time) — $66,500;
  • Uwharrie Harm Reduction Peer Support #1 (30 hours) — $30,000;
  • Uwharrie Harm Reduction Peer Support #2 (15 hours) — $20,000;
  • Recovery Support (staff) — $20,000;
  • Recovery Support (staff) — $20,000; and
  • Addiction treatment for those incarcerated — $20,000.