ASHEVILLE, NC – October 4, 2022 – Buncombe County will soon be the recipient of millions of dollars to fight the local opioid problem. This is the county’s share of the recent opioid settlement litigation with opioid distributors, manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies. The Commissioners will now have to decide how to spend this money. At the October 4th Buncombe County Board of Commissioners meeting, Dr. Shuchin Shukla (a physician and opioid specialist with the Mountain Area Health Education Center), Sunrise Community for Recovery and Wellness (a local reentry program), the County post overdose response team and the County Sheriff’s Office spoke about the opioid crisis in Buncombe County and about evidence-based interventions that are in need of financial support and development. Buncombe County will be receiving over $16 million over 18 years. The County has already received over $600 thousand and will be getting over $1 million soon.
Some important facts about overdose deaths:
- Buncombe County’s has increased to 45.2 deaths per 100,000 residents, 3 times the 2015 rate
- North Carolina’s has increased to 35.8 deaths per 100,000 residents, more than 2 times the 2015 rate
- Buncombe County’s rate has exceeded North Carolina’s since 2016
Some of the CDC-endorsed strategies for overdose reduction include:
- Naloxone distribution
- Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)
- Syringe services programs
Distribution of naloxone (known by the brand name Narcan) to at-risk individuals has been shown to decrease the opioid death rates between 30-45%. Naloxone is a medicine that reverses the effect of opioid overdose to prevent overdose deaths. It is routinely used by the BC overdose response team.
Many incarcerated persons are addicted to opioids. Upon incarceration, they have a sudden withdrawal from the addictive drugs. The likelihood of relapse after release is 40 times higher than the general population. Dr. Shukla said that MAT is considered a more effective evidenced-based treatment program than sudden withdrawal. According to the Sheriff’s office, the number of overdose deaths has decreased by 22% among “people passing through the jail” since adoption of MAT by the Buncombe County Detention Center in 2020.
Syringe access programs have been shown to reduce the risk of overdose, reduce transmission of disease, and increase healthcare access and treatment.
Other interventions mentioned at the briefing was peer support, mobile outreach, post overdose response, and mental health and crisis support.
Dr. Shukla emphasized that while the popularity for evidence-based interventions is growing that the funding needs to continue and grow. For every $1 invested in addiction treatment, the return on investment is $4 to $7 in reduced drug-related crime, criminal justice and theft. Commissioner Amanda Edwards said that the presentations “couldn’t have come at a better time for us.”
Listen to the full report below:
Contact: Dr. Dick Needleman, Health reporter, 103.3 AshevilleFM, email@example.com