County getting $3 million to combat opioid misuse, prevent overdose deaths
Published 9:59 am Wednesday, August 3, 2022
For the next 18 years (until 2038), Beaufort County will receive a total of $3,077,680 from a national opioid settlement, Health Director for the county, James Mason said at the county commissioners meeting on Monday, Aug. 1. The money will be used to create and implement plans to reduce opioid misuse and prevent overdose.
(A settlement was reached in February of this year between three major pharmaceutical companies – Cardinal, McKesson AmerisourceBergen and Johnson & Johnson and attorney generals across the country including North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein who led the coalition of attorney generals. It was the second largest state attorney general settlement in history at $26 billion, according to Stein’s office.)
The Beaufort County Health Department’s web page shows that in 2019, there were 59 overdose related reports from Washington Police Department and 14 overdose deaths reported by Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office. According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, in 2020, at least nine North Carolinians died each day from a drug overdose. In the past two decades, over 28,000 North Carolinians died from a drug overdose.
Created in 2015, the BC360 Task Force is the local health department’s committee to address and prevent opioid addiction and related deaths. Its membership consists of people who foster literacy programs or work to reduce homelessness and people who work in the behavioral health field. The task force provides counseling services, medical assistance therapies, behavioral health clinics and works on allotment distribution.
Last year, the KB Reynolds Charitable Trust allotted $800,000 over a three year period to the task force.
The BC360 Task Force has received the first payment of $118,243. The next payment will be $260,000 and will arrive before the end of the summer, Madsen explained to commissioners. The county will get $250,000 annually until 2025. The allotment will drop to a range between $135,000 to $180,000 annually.
With the new allotments, the task force plans to provide peer support specialists. These are people who can empathize and sympathize with recovering individuals because they have shared experiences. The specialists can help recovering individuals connect with resources, get care and continue to recover.
The task force would like to add health education specialists as well. Health education specialists would assist with planning, implementation, evaluation of substance misuse prevention and intervention as well as design public education campaigns, host community outreach events.
Finally, the task force would like to start pilot projects that would be reviewed for effectiveness each year. These pilot programs would help the task force “increase capacity in populations not currently served or underserved,” according to the Beaufort County Health Department. Each pilot program would cost $10,000 annually and there would be a three year funding limit.
Madsen gave commissioners a cost breakdown of how the opioid settlement monies would be spent in the first year. The BC360 task force (which is funded by the KB Reynolds Charitable Trust until 2024) will spend $65,000. Two peer support specialists will have contracts that include supervision, each being $50,400. Health education specialists will total $64,400 for contracts, administration and supervision as well as operational costs. An additional project support cost of $10,000 brings the total projected amount spent in the first year to $240,400.
Because three commissioners were absent from Monday’s regular meeting, the board did not take a vote to approve the task force’s plan on how to spend funding from the settlement.