Commissioners declare ‘opioid crisis’ in Richmond County

By: By Gavin Stone - Staff Writer

ROCKINGHAM — The Richmond County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday approved a resolution declaring an opioid crisis in the county — which is among those most affected in the state — as local agencies continue to take steps to address the issue.

There are no specific policy measures behind the declaration, only an increase in awareness and a statement of support for future steps to be taken.

“Richmond County continues to experience an alarming increase in the number of opioid prescriptions filled, opioid-related deaths and other factors related to the national opioid crisis,” County Manager Bryan Land said in his statement to the board. “Not only is this crisis impacting the health of our communities but is impacting our families, law enforcement, and practically every segment of our society. The president has even declared this a national public health crisis.”

Chairman Kenneth Robinette said that opioids are an “ongoing issue” facing the county. The resolution was recommended by the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners and passed without comment from the board.

The most significant step taken to address the opioid crisis in Richmond County is the formation of the Drug Endangered Family Task Force under the guidelines laid out in Gov. Roy Cooper’s Opioid Action Plan released in June. Under the plan, the task force aims to reduce the oversupply of prescription opioids, increase community awareness and prevention, and measure their impact so they can adjust their strategies for best results.

The task force is currently seeking opioid use data from Richmond County care providers in order to present in various forums throughout the community. Its members include representatives from DSS, the Health Department, FirstHealth, the Sandhills Center, private healthcare providers, law enforcement, EMS, Samaritan Colony, public schools and faith leaders.

Richmond County is currently ranked fourth in the state in opioid pills per resident at 132.2 — well above the state average of 78.3 — according to statistics from the County Leadership Forum on Opioid Abuse. The county’s rate of unintentional medication and drug overdose rates are also significantly higher than the state average at 18.8 deaths per 100,000 residents compared to 12.2 statewide, according to the N.C. State Center for Health Statistics.

The board also approved the reappointment of Health and Human Services Advisory Board members. Board members who will serve another three-year term are: Aletha Lanier, Dr. John Stephenson, Bryan Land, Dr. Dale McInnis, Shirley Fuller and Carolyn Walker.

An audit of Richmond County financial statements for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2017 showed “no significant findings,” meaning the county is in compliance with its financial reporting requirements, according to Alan Thompson of Thompson, Price, Scott and Adams & Co., the accounting firm hired to conduct the audit.

Economic Developer Martie Butler recognized the Hamlet location of compression hosiery manufacturer, Therafirm, and Michelle Byrne, international accounts manager for Therafirm, who was present at the meeting. Cooper named Therafirm North Carolina’s top rural exporter last week.

“It’s great to have a company like Knit-Rite/Therafirm in Richmond County,” Robinette said. “I know all the commissioners get asked a lot, ‘when’s (a new business) coming’… it’s really rewarding to see the companies that we do have in Richmond County that are growing and expanding and doing well and getting national recognition.”

Reach Gavin Stone at 910-817-2674 or [email protected]

By Gavin Stone

Staff Writer