Gov. Cooper: 'Wilmington area is ground zero' for opioid crisis

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper attended drug overdose prevention training for law enforcement and held a roundtable discussion on the opioid crisis Thursday morning.

The event began at the Coastline Convention Center at 10:30 a.m. with Cooper thanking law enforcement for their service.

The N.C. Harm Reduction Coalition taught law enforcement how to give naloxone to opioid overdose victims, including nasal and auto-injectable forms of naloxone. They also talked about needle exchange programs and how to get people into recovery.

Law enforcement officials spent some time sharing stories of how they've administered naloxone in the field.

"We have had this training for a couple years now," Wilmington Police Department Officer Troy Herman said. "I've actually had to use it on the street a few times. Probably at least four people I can think of I've had to use NARCAN on."

Then, community leaders and Cooper gathered for a roundtable to discuss opioid issues. They talked about how serious the problem is in Southeastern North Carolina.

"We have four people a day dying in North Carolina," Cooper said. "That's unacceptable. The Wilmington area is ground zero for this problem."

Cooper emphasized the importance of health care coverage to help people facing addiction get into treatment and recovery care.

"Over the last few months, in Washington, they've been considering health care plans that remove millions of people from health insurance," Cooper said. "You're going to lose the fight against opioids if we don't get people insured and we don't provide them with the treatment that they need."

Earlier this year, Cooper announced the Opioid Action Plan with the goal of reducing overdose deaths by 20 percent by 2021.

That plan addresses the crisis on several levels, including cutting down on opioid oversupply, increasing access to naloxone, and expanding recovery care to help people with opioid addiction.

"Recently, so many families are affected by this," Cooper said in June. "People are losing family members to deep addiction and death, and communities are being consumed by this."

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