Editorial: Legislature short-changes opioid epidemic fight

Posted August 2

EMS workers use Narcan to save man’s life

CBC Editorial: Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017; Editorial # 8193
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company

The opioid epidemic is not someplace else. It is not someone else’s problem. It is not going away on its own.

The response to this crisis in North Carolina needs to be more than half-funded measures and token efforts.

That is the clear message from “Searching for a Fix,” the WRAL-TV documentary broadcast Tuesday evening. It presented the depth of the problem in unvarnished and heart-breaking detail. The epidemic doesn’t play favorites, it strikes our neighbors, co-workers, friends and children.

While it may be difficult for some to watch, it is not to be missed. It is honest and offers a critical opportunity to talk openly and candidly about confronting the problem and taking steps to save lives and our communities.

The documentary’s portraits of addicts, their families, the emergency responders and law enforcement officers are vivid and revealing. They are the real people, struggles and tragedies behind the statistics.

Jim and Sandy Gray of Mooresville, who lost their son Michael; Trinlie Yeaman of Buncombe County, who lost her daughter Zoe; and Warren and Marsha Gintis of Cary, who lost their son Drew. These parents shared, with bravery and frankness, the toll and heartbreak addiction extracts.

Last year, 10 million opioid prescriptions were written in North Carolina and 700 million pills were distributed. Statewide, opioid-related deaths increased 400 percent in the last seven years. In one community, Carrboro, emergency calls to deal with overdoses increased 263 percent since 2013.

As the documentary clearly shows, this is not a problem isolated to back alleys or only among the young. It is a problem that reaches into every corner of the state and doesn’t distinguish by economic stature. It’s a problem often starting with legitimate efforts to help patients manage pain. But with lack of oversight, it too often leads to addiction. As desperate addicts seek less expensive and easier to acquire drugs, it leads to heroin.

Since 2010:

The General Assembly made a significant move toward addressing North Carolina’s opioid epidemic with the passage of the bipartisan Strengthen Opioid Misuse Prevention (STOP) Act.

{{a href=”blogpost-1”}}Backed by Attorney General Josh Stein, a Democrat, supported by key Republican state legislators as well as substance treatment advocates,{{/a}} it seeks to reduce the number of pills in circulation by limiting the number a doctor can prescribe to first-time patients. The act sets up a statewide database to track prescriptions to cut down on “doctor shopping” by addicts. It also included a $20-million program for local substance-abuse treatment and recovery.

While legislators passed the STOP act without a dissenting vote, they inexplicably failed to fully fund the community-based program for addiction treatment and recovery in the budget – shorting it by half.

Why the failure to fully-fund this important program? More anti-Stein legislation? An ideology that blames the addict that in order to avoid needed community investment? There’s clearly unanimous agreement that we are dealing with a statewide opioid addiction crisis and bipartisan support for a plan to address it.

Another disappointing outcome from Jones Street.

Money isn’t the issue -- there’s plenty to address important issues like this.

This is a crisis. Failing to provide the full $20 million is a serious omission in a $23 billion state budget.

The legislature should make it a top priority, when it goes into session Thursday, to authorize the remaining $10 million to fully-fund the important STOP opioid treatment initiative. Contact your legislator now.

* * *

Send an email to members of the General Assembly to urge them to fully fund the Strengthen Opioid Misuse Prevention (STOP) Act. Use this address -- SenateE-mail@ncleg.net -- to contact state senators and use this one -- HouseE-mail@ncleg.net -- to contact members of the House of Representatives. To look up the email address of the House or Senate members who represent you, click here.


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  • Tammy Tiffany Aug 4, 12:51 p.m.
    user avatar

    NC Women for Cannabis lobby the legislature in support of HB185, A Medical Marijuana Amendment that currently sits in the Rules, Calendar, and Operations Committee of the House and it is being completely ignored.
    In the United States, the use of cannabis for medical purposes is legal in 29 states, plus the territories of Guam and Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia, as of April 2017.
    Do your homework, Cannabis works!
    The responses to our calls for compassionate care of NC citizens has fallen on deaf ears. It hurts my soul to think about the wasted potential to avoid a 142 death a day and growing epidemic by holding Cannabis hostage from the people. Please remember two undeniable facts when considering the solution:
    1. opioids deaths are a 142 a day growing epidemic
    2. 0 ZERO 0 Cannabis deaths ever
    What more reason do you need to allow the patients of North Carolina access to Medical Cannabis?

  • Nick Holt Aug 2, 9:08 a.m.
    user avatar

    Typical liberal whining....just throw money at it, doesn't matter if it works or not. Perhaps they want to see if a new program works as it is established. Most likely will need tweaking and they can put the other money there. Also I don't see any mention of personal responsibility with these people after they get their prescriptions. It's a horrible situation but the people are putting the drugs in their own bodies.

  • Teddy Fowler Aug 2, 8:31 a.m.
    user avatar

    They didn't shortchange it... as it went from $0 dollars to $10 million for the program... and money is apparently never an issue for literally every single thing that you have advocated for in your opinions... somebody should take the time to figure out what all your wish list items would actually cost us.....