BY DEBBIE PAGE
DACI Chair Sandy-Tabor Gray and Mooresville Mayor Miles Atkins led a discussion on the organization’s past accomplishments and sought coalition members input into its current and future direction at its November meeting.
The group’s board of directors is in the midst of creating a strategic plan for the organization, which is a model group in North Carolina for its strong brand and professional operation, according to Atkins.
However, the board wants to identify gaps in services that DACI needs to address in the future as well as to chart a course to become a self-funding, United Way-type model that focuses on drug and alcohol misuse in the community.
DACI receives the majority of its funding from the Mooresville ABC Board’s contributions for alcohol education and prevention, but this money must be spent to help those in the 28117 and 28115 areas, leaving a funding problem for the organization to serve the rest of the county.
Atkins sought ideas to come up with additional funding to expand DACI’s efforts throughout Iredell County, including grants, capital campaigns, and fundraisers to provide operational funding that cannot be covered with the Mooresville ABC funding.
Atkins believes the interest and money to support DACI is present in the county but that “it depends on how we tell our story.” He emphasized the individual agency and client stories will be most powerful because “impact drives income.”
“We have to show that because of DACI we have been able to do this. We’ve done incredible work so far, but how do we take it to the next level?”
Iredell County Commissioner Tommy Bowles, a DACI Board member, noted that government is limited in its role in addressing substance use issues in a way a non-profit is not.
Once it 501(c)3 status is in place, DACI will be “ready to take off” and not be held back by constraints of government on issues like needle exchange, which protect community health from the spread of such diseases like hepatitis and HIV, Bowles said.
The presence of DACI “has got people freely talking about substance misuse. It is no longer in the drawer. You can’t just hide and expect to impact it. It’s touching so many people’s lives and so many different entities that are involved,” added Bowles.
Some of the organization’s successes include installation of drop boxes across the county that get 20 to 30 pounds of medications off the streets each week. DACI’s resource guide is used by agencies, churches, social workers, pharmacies, and the medical community to connect those they serve to appropriate treatment options.
In the past two years, over $200,000 in DACI grant funds have also sponsored programs such as Clean Teens and the Youth Offender Diversion Program at Piedmont Mediation to lead young people away from substance misuse. The funds have also helped provide treatment programs at various providers to those who cannot afford it.
DACI’s countywide educational forums and programs also reached out to medical professionals to avoid overprescribing of opioids, to clergy to educate and support its congregations on substance use issues, and to the community at large about the dangers of drug misuse, especially opioids.
Patti West credits DACI with “getting the conversation started” about drug and alcohol misuse.
“We’re giving people an avenue that have lived in darkness for many, many years. We’re bringing it out of the box. That is a huge accomplishment when you have a community that is willing to talk about it and not condemn. That is a great stride.”
Tabor-Gray also cited the value of DACI to bring various agencies together to learn about each others’ work and create a more collaborative approach. “We are providing a place to come together and talk and bring it back to the community.”
Iredell County Health Department Director Jane Hinson suggested that DACI share personal stories that demonstrate how its grants changed lives to get donors to get involved in Statesville and other parts of the county so that DACI can grow and expand its services and grants in other areas of the community.
DACI needs to become a “one-stop shop” that coordinates all the services that a person in substance misuse crisis needs, including rehab, housing, medical care, childcare, and food, said Mooresville Police Detective Dan Miglin.
DACI Director Jill St. Claire St. Claire is able to coordinate and connect people to access all the services that DACI partners provide, according to Miglin. There is a need to network and have “a champion who is going to be advocating for all the services” in the county.
“We need to synchronize efforts together. We campaign for DACI and DACI campaigns for us. It’s so much better working together than individually. It’s amazing how much we can get accomplished when nobody cares who gets the credit,” added Miglin.
Miglin also suggested creating testimonials from each agency detailing how it partners with DACI and from individuals impacted from the services provided through DACI events and grants.
United Way Director of Community Engagement & Foundation Relations Sara Lewis also cited the need for individuals passionate about substance-use disorder to join the DACI Board to help the coalition as it grows and expands its presence in the Iredell community.
Tabor-Gray also cited the important friendships and relationships that have developed through DACI. “The focus is on who can help the person best.”
She shared that Duke University just conducted a review of Iredell County EMS for a grant, looking at its community resources and needs relating to substance misuse.
“They said you have something unique here. We have been to a lot of other counties and this is not what we are hearing. You have a lot of people at the table. You have a lot of support and agencies you can call on that you call partners in what you do. That’s not everywhere, guys. We are lucky,” added Tabor-Gray.
Others noted the need for the whole community to be involved in combatting the disease of addiction, noting that this kind of community effort to be provide all the resources clients need is critical because recovery is not easy. Having the whole community involved also is important to break the stigma of addiction.
Continuation of care was also cited as an expanding need that DACI addresses. Those in early recovery need help with treatment aftercare, housing, medical services, mental health care, food, and jobs. DACI provides those connections and resources for clients that an individual agency cannot provide or may not know about.
Coalition members suggested seeking grant funding and having a fundraising event that features testimonies from agencies and individuals supported by DACI.
Atkins stressed the need to raise funds and find effective avenues to tell DACI’s story between now and June when some current funding sources end.
He asked partner agencies to help with lists of potential donors, reminding them that the money raised filters back to these agencies in the form of grants and other assistance. He also asked inviting agencies not involved to join the coalition. “We really have to work together,” he said.
RECENT LOCAL DRUG STATS
St. Claire also reported that September emergency room visits in Iredell County were up for drug-overdose related issues but that overall October visits declined to some of the lowest numbers all year. Medication overdoses dropped from 49 to 35, unintentional overdoses from 20 to 16, and opioid overdoses from 12 to 9.
ER visits related to alcohol (126 to 90) and drug dependence (138 to 122) saw significant drops, but opioid abuse and dependence visits rose from 32 to 41.
Heroin overdoses rose from 4 to 5 over those two months, and ER visits for opioid abuse and dependence rose from 32 to 41.
In the latest statistics available, 28 people died in Iredell County from opioid overdose in 2017, with six more succumbing to heroin and sevn to benzodiazepines. Thirty-nine others died from other medication or drug overdoses.
PARTICIPATING AGENCY NEWS
♦ St. Claire reported that over 100 people attended the DACI Provider Resource Breakfast on November 1 at Williamson Chapel United Methodist Church. The event focused on healthcare, housing, food, and medically assisted treatment resources available in the community.
♦ Iredell-Statesville Schools social worker Justin Hefner announced the awarding of three grants totaling $14 million dollars to fund new new school social workers, nurses, behavioral specialists, and behavior technicians related to drug and alcohol prevention.
♦ Lewis announced the Love United Iredell campaign, whose purpose is to fund as many small but impactful projects within the Iredell County as possible through all formats of media within the county.
A large portion of outreach will be focused on social media outlets and engaging new individuals with 501(c)3 non-profit organizations. All applications will be reviewed by a selection committee to ensure the most effective projects for Iredell County are selected.
The Love United of Iredell campaign will then be held February 10-24 through the use of media and community outreach. The campaign hopes to raise money through a single online donation platform.
Applications to be considered for the campaign will be accepted November 1 through December 4. Decisions will be announced to applicants in January.
Only one project per nonprofit agency may be applied for. Funds must have a local impact and be used within six months.
Those agencies interested should complete the required information on the proposed project, which must cost $5,000 or less so that the funds raised can fully complete as many projects as possible within the county.
For more information and to access the application, visit online at https://uwiredell.org/love-united-iredell/.
♦ The Community Response Support Team, run through the Iredell County Emergency Medical Services since April to follow up on drug-overdose ambulance calls, has contacted 110 people so far to encourage substance-abuse treatment and provide links to area services for either themselves or family members, according to Tabor-Gray.
The team has connected several people to a 30-day treatment program and others to MAT or 12-step programs. The team stays in contact with those not ready for treatment and recovery in order to build relationships and to be there when they are ready to ask for help. They also provide NARCAN and syringe exchange information to their clients.
The Drug-Alcohol Coalition of Iredell is made up of dozens of representatives from various help agencies, area law enforcement entities, medical professionals, and city and county governments. The group, founded in 2012, is “committed to the reduction and prevention of substance misuse, abuse, and overdose deaths.”
The group’s website, available at http://daciredell.org, seeks to educate, engage, and empower Iredell County citizens.
The group’s Facebook page is at https://www.facebook.com/Drug-Alcohol-Coalition-of-Iredell-557415357723605/.
DACI’s next coalition meeting is on Monday, January 6, at 11 a.m. at the Iredell County Health Department at 318 Turnersburg Highway in Statesville.