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Wake County leaders propose plan to fight heroin, opioid overdoses

County leaders met Monday about a proposed plan to fight the increase of heroin and opioid overdoses in Wake County.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — County commisioners met Monday about a proposed plan to fight the increase of heroin and opioid overdoses in Wake County.

Since 2011, the number of heroin deaths in Wake County has jumped more than 400 percent, and opioid deaths have increased by 127 percent. Preliminary numbers suggest 2016 continued the trend.

"We're looking at some pretty significant numbers here," said Sue Lynn Ledford, Wake County Public Health Director.

From 2012 to 2016, deaths from prescription opioids increased by 144 percent, and 44 people died in 2016. Synthetic opioids, like Fentanyl, claimed 22 lives that same year.

Ledford said there are many more opioid users authorities do not know about. In many cases, she said, addiction to prescribed pain killers leads to the abuse of the more powerful drugs.

"We hope to address the rise in these drug overdoses," she said.

Health officials are call the increase in overdoses an emerging public health issue and believe it's the tip of the iceberg. After listening to a presentation at a work session Monday afternoon, one county commissioner compared the problem to a spreading brush fire.

Wake County EMS officials answer 2 to 3 overdose related calls a day and up 10 calls per day on weekends.

"It creates more call volume, more workload and more need for resources," said Dr. Jose Cabanas, EMS director.

The proposed plan includes hiring two new people — a nurse and substance use prevention consultant. There would also be an increase in contracted services for drug prevention and support as well.

The proposal would cost nearly a million dollars over the next three years. County Commissioners are expected to vote on the proposal at their next meeting.


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