Local leaders discuss opioid settlement funding, drug addiction in homeless population

Nearly 100 people died from drug overdoses in New Hanover County in 2021, marking the fifth-highest overdose death rate among North Carolina’s 100 counties.
Published: Jan. 10, 2023 at 6:06 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Nearly 100 people died from drug overdoses in New Hanover County in 2021, marking the fifth-highest overdose death rate among the area’s seven-county hospital service area, and 46th-highest among North Carolina’s 100 counties.

Help is on its way into the community to fight the ongoing opioid epidemic. A joint subcommittee of leaders from the City of Wilmington and New Hanover County met Tuesday to discuss ways to spend over $7 million over the next five years.

County Commissioner Deb Hays says the fight to end drug addiction is a long one but is hopeful this investment in resources will yield positive results.

“Can we solve it overnight? No. It’s going to take some time, but we’ve got the experts in the room that we need to make this happen and we’re dedicated to getting this done,” Hays said.

Spending suggestions presented to the subcommittee Tuesday morning include allocating $910,000 over five years to fund a Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) program at the New Hanover County Detention Center, $1.7 million for an EMS MAT program, and $1 million for the Coastal Horizons Quick Response Team.

Wilmington City Councilman Luke Waddell wants to see money allocated to help the county’s homeless population.

“I do believe that it’s incumbent upon this body to put some provisions in that are going to significantly address the open-air drug markets both at the downtown library and the Meadowlark Lemon Bridge,” Waddell said.

He says funds should be set aside for homeless people to access addiction recovery resources, claiming they are often hit hardest by drug use.

“I think to ignore that and ignore where there’s real drug use, significant drug use that is documented and to just put our heads in the ground on that is just not the right way to go forward,” Waddell said.

Hays agrees and hopes the new multi-million dollar windfall will address the issue.

“We’ve got to address the homeless population because they have a high percentage of drug abuse and mental health issues, which by the way, are all wrapped together. So, we’ve got to address that,” said Hays.

The subcommittee will meet again in February before making a spending recommendation to both the city council and the board of county commissioners.