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County says opioid crisis big problem

The Carteret County News-Times - 11/24/2017

BEAUFORT - The County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution at its meeting Monday declaring the opioid crisis a public nuisance and learned how the county is currently handling mental health and substance abuse issues.

The resolution, which the board passed unanimously, declares the opioid epidemic in Carteret County a major public health and safety issue involving abuse, addiction, morbidity and mortality.

"We have a problem, we recognize the problem, and we are going to do our part to help," said chairman Mark Mansfield during the meeting in the administration building.

A number of initiatives in the county and surrounding areas have recently addressed mental health and the growing opioid crisis and other substance abuse problems.

A facility-based crisis center planned in Jacksonville is to open next year and will serve those in crisis in Carteret and Onslow counties. The center is a collaboration between Carteret and Onslow counties, Jacksonville, Trillium Health Resources, Onslow Memorial Hospital and Carteret Health Care.

Sheri Slater, assistant county manager for Onslow County, said the 16-bed facility will serve those experiencing mental health or substance crises. It will treat patients on a short-term basis, transferring them to longer-term facilities or detox centers if necessary.

The facility will be housed in two existing buildings at 215 Memorial Drive. One building will hold administrative offices and meeting space and the other will house patients, and the facility requires renovations totaling about $2 million.

Ms. Slater said they received a Dorothea Dix Foundation grant for up to $2 million in renovations. She hopes to begin construction in early 2018 with the facility ready to open by summer 2018.

While the commissioners expressed support for the facility, they wanted more information about it, including building plans and daily operating costs.

"We put our blessing on a resolution tonight identifying opioids as a crisis, a crisis for our county, and it's a big deal right now. And we know that in the last couple years that there's been a lot of money taken back by entities like yours that makes you wonder why it wasn't put out maybe in the community ? ," said Commissioner Robin Comer. "? The more we know, the more we can go to our legislators ? and it's kind of hard to do that until we get a good grasp."

Mr. Comer said the board wants to ensure the tax money the county contributes to the facility will be used appropriately and to help those in need.

Ms. Slater said she and Trillium representative David Tart will return to next month's commissioners' meeting with additional information.

The board of commissioners unanimously voted to set aside $300,000 for the facility-based crisis center. At its October board of directors meeting, Carteret Health Care voted to contribute an additional $100,000. Both entities pledge at least a two-year commitment to the facility with their contributions.

By contributing funds to the facility, Carteret County will hold a seat on its advisory board.

"This is an investment. Onslow doesn't have to do it, we don't have to do it, the city of Jacksonville doesn't have to do it and the hospitals definitely don't have to do it, but the hospitals know how much it's going to help them," said Commissioner Jimmy Farrington.

The board of commissioners also heard about mobile-based crisis work being done by the Integrated Family Services, an Eastern North Carolina-based company providing mental health and substance abuse services.

The mobile crisis management team provides 24-hour crisis support to anybody in the county, meeting the individual where he or she is located. It is a diversion service with the goal of avoiding admission to an in-patient clinic when possible.

Since beginning service in Carteret County in 2016, IFS provided crisis intervention to 287 patients.

Meanwhile, as part of the ongoing effort to prevent drug overdose deaths, the Beaufort Police Department this month received Narcan kits, a potentially life-saving drug for those experiencing an opiate overdose. Officers with the department were trained on administering the drug, and all officers will now have access to it in their patrol cars.

The department received an initial supply of Narcan kits through a private donation, and funding for future supplies of the drug will be added as an item of the department's operating budget.

"While this is not a long-term solution to the opioid epidemic we are facing, this is another step we can take in fulfilling our mission to serve the citizens of Beaufort," said police chief Paul Burdette in a press release. "All of my officers are trained first responders and assist with medical emergencies when available. These kits, along with the AED's we will be receiving, can provide the tools that can save a life when seconds count."

Contact Elise Clouser at elise@thenewstimes.com; by phone at 252-726-7081 ext. 229, or follow on Twitter @eliseccnt.


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