As overdose deaths in North Carolina continue to soar, a group of more than 50 statewide faith-based organizations is calling on city and county officials to act. In a letter sent Monday, they're urging them to support what they call proven methods to reduce overdose fatalities.
The group wants county commissioners and city council members across the state to use their portions of the $750 million settlement with opioid distributors to expand evidence-based harm reduction programs. These include continued funding for existing syringe service programs, increased access to overdose-reversing medications and effective drug treatments, and making sure people who use drugs and those who love them have a seat at the table.
Elizabeth Brewington with Partners in Health and Wholeness says there is no one size fits all approach.
"Maybe they already have a syringe exchange program, but it's not able to reach everyone," says Brewington. "So, invest in that syringe exchange program. Maybe by talking to people who use drugs, they realize that transportation is a major issue, and so the funds could be better used to support those needs. Maybe the need is housing. All the 100 counties in North Carolina are so different."
Advocates say connecting people with treatment that is proven to work is key, and that people receiving methadone have half the death rate of those in abstinence-oriented treatments.