ROCKINGHAM — The burgeoning task force working to combat the opioid crisis in Richmond County is soliciting drug use data from as many local medical, treatment and law enforcement agencies as it can in order to understand the scale of the crisis and be more effective in addressing it.
Once received, the Drug Endangered Family Task Force will present the data at a series of events in the coming months and through various community channels to raise awareness.
“We want to be able to look at all the data in Richmond County so we can know what’s going on in our county,” said Theressa Smith, coordinator for the task force.
Richmond County is ranked fourth in North Carolina in opioid pills per resident at 132.2, well above the state average of 78.3, according to statistics from the Department of Health and Human Services.
There were seven new faces at the task force’s first meeting of 2018 on Wednesday. Among them was Buddy Williams, EMS director for FirstHealth of the Carolinas. Williams said EMS has not yet provided any data to the task force but that they are eager to help in any way they can.
“Anything we can do to save somebody’s life and get this thing turned back in the opposite direction is going to be a good thing in the long run,” he said.
The task force is made up of drug treatment providers, social service officials, law enforcement, faith and school leaders, all working under the Department of Social Services, following the guidelines laid out in North Carolina’s Opioid Action Plan, which was released in June.
The action plan aims to reduce the number of unintentional opioid-related deaths in North Carolina, of which there were 1,194 in 2016, reduce the rate of patients receiving opioids from five or more providers in a six month period of which there were 27.3 per 100,000 residents in 2015, among other trends.
Richmond and Robeson counties each had 11 opiate-related deaths in 2015; Stanly had 12 and Rowan had 29 and Randolph had 30. Mecklenburg and Wake topped the list with more than 60 each.
Another first-timer at Wednesday’s task force meeting was Tony Spaulding, a substance abuse counselor at Compassionate Counseling Services in Rockingham. Spaulding said his agency will contribute to the task force going forward.
“I’m hoping we can all work together to fight what we view as a crisis in our state,” he said.
Reach Gavin Stone at 910-817-2674 or [email protected]