Fight against opioid addiction brings both parties together - | WBTV Charlotte

Fight against opioid addiction brings both parties together

David Whisenant-WBTV David Whisenant-WBTV

If there's one thing that it appears Democrats and Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly can agree on, it's that opioid abuse is at the crisis level.

“This substance abuse crisis with opioids is approaching epidemic proportions," Governor Cooper said during a town hall in High Point on Tuesday. "We’re losing lives, we are getting people who are desperate, who are taken to the emergency room, and we’re getting lost productivity in our workforce because of this addiction.”

The town hall meeting in High Point involved Governor Cooper and new Health & Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen, MD, as well as law enforcement professionals, treatment and addiction counselors, and even parents and victims of opioid abuse. 

Kyle and Sallie Kelton stood before Cooper and others during the ninety minute town hall to tell the tragic story of their son Griffin.

On May 21, 2015, the 20-year-old Queens University student was found dead in his dorm room with a needle still in his arm.  Now his parents spend much of their time trying to tell young people about the dangers of opioid abuse.

“They need to be scared, they need to know what’s going to happen when the start down this road," Kyle Griffin said.

Since 1999, opioid overdose has claimed the lives of more than 13,000 North Carolinians, and four North Carolina cities rank in the top 25 worst cities for opioid abuse. Opioid deaths involving pain medications are the leading cause of overdose death.

Governor Cooper’s 2017-2018 budget proposal includes more than $12 million in community mental health funding to address the opioid crisis. This will provide services including individual and group therapy, coupled with medications, to serve approximately 2,500 individuals statewide.

It also includes $2 million for local law enforcement efforts to fight opioid abuse.

“It is clear that we have to have a comprehensive strategy to reduce the number of opioids that are out there, reduce the number of prescription drugs, to put in an effective prevention and treatment program to get people off this," Cooper said.

To that end, on Friday House Speaker Philip Berger joined Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein in a press release highlighting the two parties cooperation in promoting the STOP Act, a legislative initiative aimed at fighting the opioid epidemic by limiting access to the painkillers and by providing more help to people who become addicted to them.

“This is one of our areas of common ground," Cooper added.  "I think we all agree that we’ve got to tackle this problem and I think that even the most conservative, hard law enforcement officer or republican legislator knows that we cannot arrest our way out of this problem.  We have to make sure that we focus on treatment.  Yes, we have to arrest people who are drug suppliers and who are breaking the law, but these people who are addicted, we need to reduce demand, so that’s what this effort is about today.”

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