Opioid Epidemic

Lilly Knoepp

  Yesterday, we heard about a lack of homeless shelters between Waynesville and Murphy.  Today, we look at a similar gap in substance abuse treatment centers in the same 80-mile distance. In Macon County here is a new treatment facility that hopes to fill that gap:  

Hazelwood Healthcare sits along Highway 441 to Georgia just past Franklin. It opened this week. 

“This is where you come back.” 

Lilly Knoepp

  North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein this week joined three other state attorneys general in calling for a single $48 billion dollar settlement with five major pharmaceutical companies for their role in the opioid epidemic.  All 50 U.S. states would receive money under the proposed settlement. 

 Here are some reactions to the deal from rural leaders in Western North Carolina: 

Lilly Knoepp

Prescription opioid abuse has been in the national spotlight this summer as new data about the numbers of prescriptions per county has been released. North Carolina is also part of national lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies like Purdue Pharma for their role in the crisis. 

Lilly Knoepp

 For the first time ever, North Carolina’s seven westernmost counties met to discuss how to solve the opioid crisis.  BPR was at the summit in Bryson City.

For Graham County Commissioner Connie Orr, the issue is personal. Her son has been battling addiction since he was prescribed Vicodin at 15 years old. He’s now 51. 

“From that time until now my son has been fighting the addiction of opiates which has moved not only to opiates but to heroin, meth or any drug that is available right now,” says Orr. 

BPR

President Trump this week renewed his pledge to battle the country’s opioid epidemic. Trump spoke at a national drug abuse conference in Atlanta.  Here in Western North Carolina, students are working to raise awareness about the epidemic. BPR’s Helen Chickering reports from  A.C. Reynolds High School, where students organized an opioid education summit. 

As the opioid epidemic deepens, the need for foster parents has exploded in Western North Carolina.  That was one of the findings of a series of stories from the Asheville Citizen-Times that explored many topics and issues around opioid abuse in the region.  Reporter Alexandria Bordas joined BPR's Matt Bush in studio to discuss the series, which took 5 months to compile.  

Matt Bush BPR

Buncombe County commissioners have been holding town hall meetings in recent months regarding opioids.  Those gatherings have touched on several topics, but have had one common goal – educating people on how powerful the painkillers are and how easy it is to become addicted to them.

Matt Bush BPR

Buncombe County is suing five manufacturers and three wholesale distributors of opioids, as the number of overdoses in the county on those drugs has sharply risen again this year.  It’s an approach other governments at all levels across the U.S. have tried.

Davin Eldridge

The opioid epidemic is unavoidable – even on Halloween in Western North Carolina.  BPR’s Davin Eldridge reports on a 'spooky' holiday decoration that some parents think went too far in calling attention to the problem.


Starting today, the North Carolina Medicaid program will pay for medicines to treat hepatitis C for patients no matter how sick they are. In the past, the state wouldn’t pay for the expensive drugs unless the patient had stage two liver damage.  

Saturday is 'Prescription Drug Take Back Day'

Oct 26, 2017
Hero Images/Getty Images

Saturday October 28 is National Prescription Drug Take Back Day.  Jill Westmoreland Rose, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina, says there are drop-off locations all over.

"And it's just a place where you can go and drop off your unwanted and unused leftover prescriptions because they're just too dangerous to leave around."   

At WakeMed Health and Hospitals, the emergency department stays busy around the clock. More than ever, it's not just chest pain or trouble breathing that brings people in.

N.C. Public Division Of Health

The opioid crisis is affecting all of the U.S., and Western North Carolina in particular.  And it is showing no signs of slowing down in the region's most populous county.  In the first 8 months of 2017, 230 visits to emergency departments were reported in Buncombe County, as opposed to just 84 during the same time frame last year.

Matt Bush BPR

Student resource officers at several Buncombe County middle and high schools will have overdose-reversal kits for the first time ever.  The kits contain Narcan, the brand name for a nasal spray administered to those who have overdosed on opioids.  The kits are being made available through collaboration between the Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC), Vaya Health, and the Buncombe County Sheriff's office.  

Matt Bush BPR

September will be Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery month in North Carolina.  Governor Roy Cooper signed the proclamation designating alcohol and drug addiction recovery month at Vaya Health in Asheville.  The organization helps connect people with health insurance, including for addiction and recovery, something the governor says is crucial in a state where the opioid crisis is growing.

North Carolina is receiving a large federal grant to treat people addicted to opioids. Governor Roy Cooper announced Thursday that the state will receive $31 million for treatment initiatives over the next two years.

Macon County Sheriff's Office

In the midst of a national opioid addiction crisis, doctors in North Carolina are prescribing more and more painkillers.  Western North Carolina is no exception, according to reports.   But a simple clerical error from one such report has helped motivate one mountain community to better tackle the crisis at home.