Special to Iredell Free News
RALEIGH — Twenty-three local health departments across North Carolina will receive a share of a $2.1 million award annually for up to three years to implement high-impact, community-level strategies to address the opioid crisis.
These funds are part of a $7 million award from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Community Linkages to Care to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Public Health.
The three-year awards of up to $275,000 encourage local health departments and districts to partner with local agencies and community-based organizations to implement core strategies such as syringe exchange programs, connection of justice-involved individuals to treatment and recovery services and post-overdose response teams with emergency medical services.
“This Community Linkages to Care funding serves as a catalyst for local communities across the state to directly address the opioid crisis by working collaboratively to build sustainable, impactful programs for the most vulnerable populations in their communities,” said Dr. Susan Kansagra, section chief for the Division of Public Health’s Chronic Disease and Injury Section.
In addition, the Mecklenburg County Health Department was awarded funding to implement an innovative project: a harm reduction-based, drop-in wellness center that will co-locate a variety of wraparound services, including peer support groups, wound care and rapid testing. Four local health departments across the state applied for the innovative part of this funding.
In 2017, Governor Roy Cooper launched the NC Opioid Action Plan, which was updated and rereleased as the N.C. Opioid Action Plan 2.0. in June 2019. The plan advances various strategies for opioid prevention and response through three focus areas: prevention, connections to care and harm reduction. The updated plan includes local strategies that counties, coalitions and stakeholders can use to fight the opioid epidemic.
Not long after the 2017 plan was put in place, North Carolina for the first time in five years saw the number of unintentional opioid-related deaths among its residents fall by 5 percent in 2018, and emergency department visits for opioid-related overdose declined nearly 10 percent.
“We are fortunate to have received new funding from CDC to further expand the programs needed for people who struggle with substance use disorder to reduce their risk of an overdose and to save lives in North Carolina,” said Alan Dellapenna, Injury and Violence Prevention Branch head. “We have made great progress through the plan and we are proud of the work that communities across North Carolina have started through previous funding administered through NCDHHS.”
This new set of awards continues the momentum from last year’s Emergency Overdose funding that was awarded to 22 local health departments/districts, which collectively served approximately 3,000 people through these same community-based strategies.
Awardees include the following local health departments/districts: Alamance, Albemarle Regional, Appalachian District, Buncombe HHS, Cabarrus, Catawba, Clay, Dare HS, Davie HHS, Durham, Forsyth, Granville-Vance District, Guilford HHS, Haywood HHS, Henderson, Hoke, Iredell, Martin-Tyrrell-Washington District, Mecklenburg, Pitt, Stanly, Surry Health and Nutrition, and Wake Human Services.
For more information about the NC Opioid Action Plan and efforts to-date, visit www.ncdhhs.gov/opioid-epidemic.