DHHS Secretary highlights naloxone availability, syringe exchanges as efforts to fight opioid epidemic

DHHS Secretary highlights naloxone availability, syringe exchanges as efforts to fight opioid epidemic
Pastor James Sizemore and volunteers from his church package a handful of needles, a sterile wipe, bandage, condom and a small cup to mix the heroin into black plastic needle boxes. (Source: WECT)

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - New Hanover County has the second highest rate of heroin overdose deaths of all counties in North Carolina and tops the list when adjusted for population, according to the North Carolina Department of Health & Human Services.

The state's DHHS Secretary Rick Brajer joined us on WECT News First at Four, along with Margaret Stargell, President and CEO of Coastal Horizons.

Both talked about what's being done to help address the problem of heroin and opioid addiction at the local and state level.

Brajer highlighted the recently expanded availability of Naloxone in North Carolina.

Naloxone can counteract an overdose.

In June 2016, Governor Pat McCrory signed legislation and State Health Director Randall Williams, MD, signed a standing order to authorize any pharmacist practicing in the state and licensed by the North Carolina Board of Pharmacy to dispense Naloxone to any person who voluntarily requests it.

In 2013, the Good Samaritan/Naloxone Access law went into effect.

It protects those asking for help from 911, the police or E.M.S. because they or another person is having a drug overdose.

The law protects people who give naloxone to someone who is overdosing.

Also, those who have small amounts of drugs or items used to take drugs can't be tried in court if the person is asking for help for an overdose.

The state also has a new Syringe Exchange Program, aimed at protecting the health of first responders and citizens. Programs are being set up across the state to collect used and potentially contaminated syringes from people who inject drugs and exchange them for sterile syringes and access to social services, including substance addiction treatment.

Other states with similar programs have seen drops in HIV transmission and Hepatitis C cases.

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