WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - District Attorney Ben David calls the opioid epidemic a public safety issue with a public health solution.
On Thursday, Pastor Rodney Knowles hosted a county-wide meeting on substance abuse at Spring View Pentecostal Free Will Baptist Church to help attendees understand the complex role family members play in substance abuse treatment.
“I hope and I pray that if we can get one person off of drugs or keep one person from [overdosing], then we would have done our job,” Knowles said.
Speakers included District Attorney Ben David and Coastal Horizon’s Clinical Director Kenny House, who oversees an array of treatment and prevention programs in southeastern North Carolina.
“The real starting point is getting people to feel comfortable talking, and rather than approaching drug use and addiction from a judgmental standpoint, to approach it from a standpoint of understanding it as an illness, and then focusing on ‘how can I come alongside of you and assist you? What do you need to get to where you need to go in your life?’” House said. “I’ve never met anyone who set out in their life using drugs or alcohol that intended to become addicted.”
District Attorney Ben David said 80 percent of heroin users started by taking prescription pills and he urges everyone to properly dispose of unneeded medication.
“We’re not just trying to react to the crime we see, the 52 overdose deaths we had last year or the hundreds of cases that either involve breaking and entering to support a habit or shooting to protect a drug turf, we’re looking to proactively go out into the community and try to prevent some of these crimes and we’re asking the community for its help,” David said. “There are some timeless messages that come to all of us - you know, we have to do justice and love mercy and when we’re talking about the drug epidemic that means we’re going to be tough on drug dealers and we’re going to show compassion to people in the grips of addiction.”
The New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office also encourages everyone to be a good citizen and a good witness by reporting suspicious activity to police.
“I just hope our community will step up to the plate and again, if you see something, say something. And that’s what we’ve got to do. We’ve got to get the drug dealers off the streets and stop all the drugs and stuff that’s coming in here. We can help our police department/sheriff’s department by speaking up and giving them a call whenever we see something we think is suspicious,” Pastor Knowles said.
You can find more information on Coastal Horizons and the addiction treatment services they offer here.