Governor Roy Cooper wrapped up a 2-day tour of Western North Carolina Tuesday. His visit was designed to put a light on many issues affecting the region. And no issue may be affecting Western North Carolina more than opioid abuse.
Up until about three years ago, David Dick had been abusing opiates for 35 years. After a workplace accident left him barely alive and badly injured, the subsequent opiate prescriptions left him hooked. “It’s just the constant prescribing of opioids, left me with nothing else on my mind,” said Dick.
Dick sat next to Governor Roy Cooper at a roundtable in Clyde this week, where community leaders on the frontlines of the opioid crisis painted a portrait of the social cost of chronic pain management that is both complicated, and expensive. “We’ve expanded a lot more now into responding to emergency medical calls,” said Waynesville Police Chief Bill Hollingshed, who added that opioids are fueling a drug trade involving more and more people.
Haywood County Sheriff Greg Christopher sees his fair share of them too – 30 percent of prisoners in his jail admit to a severe opioid addiction. “Our detention center averages about 107 people per day at this time, $73 a day for our taxpayers for each individual that spends the night there in our facility,” said Christopher. “That’s about $3.3 million per year when it comes to our budget for our county.”
Keeping people out of jail means keeping them off opioids in the first place. Last year’s N.C. STOP Act was designed to limit prescriptions of opioids, but Gov. Cooper says that’s just the beginning. “One of the things we’ve done is start to control prescriptions of opioids, but we have to look at alternatives to pain management,” said Cooper. “There are other ways to attack pain other than simply the prescription of opioids.”
Cooper is one of just three governors to sit on President’s Trump’s opioid commission, which called for widening access to non-addictive pain management treatments last fall. The White House responded in a statement last month pledging to support research and development into decreasing the use of opioids in pain management – exactly what ensnared David Dick.