Surry County Most Wanted | Mount Airy News

Something intended to remedy a problem, the hospital pain chart, may have played a little-known role in the scourge of opioid abuse. Surry County is expected to receive more than $9 million from the opioid settlement, and a long-term plan has been developed to use those funds based on community feedback.

$26 billion has been paid by three drugmakers to resolve lawsuits claiming their business practices helped fuel the deadly opioid crisis. ‘Our communities will begin receiving money this year to help people struggling with substance abuse,’ focusing on treatment, recovery, prevention and harm reduction services, the prosecutor said. General Josh Stein.

Of the state’s $750 million settlement, 1.5% is expected to reach Surry County, which Mark Willis, the county’s opioid response director, will be paid to the county over 18 years, according to Mark Willis. He recently spoke with county commissioners to discuss plans to focus the roughly $500,000 a year the settlement will add to drug enforcement.

A painful outcome

Surry was not alone, but fell victim to “a number of events beyond your control, not unlike 2,000 other rural counties”. With the implementation of pain as a sixth vital sign by the American Pain Society, Willis told commissioners, pain management has become a barometer of patient satisfaction.

How hospitals handled pain had a direct effect on their grades, “It led doctors to take what the drug companies said and prescribe opiates,” he explained. In this area, Surry County stands out from other counties. From 2006 to 2014, in Surry County, 55 million pills were sold, 105% more than the average for neighboring counties “including Forsyth”.

Seeing a problem, North Carolina in 2017 passed the Strengthen Opioid Misuse Prevention (STOP) Act. It was another measure designed to help by limiting the amount of painkillers that could be prescribed.

The sudden change created a problem for patients who had managed their pain as directed and became a causative factor in creating many addiction issues.

“You had people getting 60 to 90 80mg, 100mg, 120mg opioid pills. Then you tell them, ‘You’re not getting any more, you’ve only got seven days. We think you’re not getting any more. don’t need it anymore. They went somewhere else and where they went was on the street.

The business of abuse

Economics also came into play, with Willis pointing out that finding a heroin ‘tick’ on the street costs a fraction of a pill, making it the quickest and easiest option. The path of least resistance then led to heroin pills in the blink of an eye.

Eighty percent of heroin users today, he said, started with legal prescriptions for opioids. “While the intent of the state legislature is good, what we haven’t done is put something in place to help people who need treatment for opioid addiction. “

Commissioner Eddie Harris stressed that weak border security must be on the list of events fighting the war on drugs. Willis agreed saying that the majority of drugs like cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana or the most recent concern “new psychoactive substances – fentanyl, and dozens and dozens of different fentanyl analogues flooding your streets”, come from Mexico.

He noted that the cartels there have improved every element of the operations, from smuggling to the science of synthetic drug production, even calling some of the business techniques “Harvard level.”

The traffickers want people to get addicted, which is why fentanyl is now found mixed with other drugs. Non-opiates like Xanax or Ecstasy, even marijuana vapes can be mixed with fentanyl to create a new addict due to its “unusually addictive” nature.

Willis said EMS teams have reported that improvements in science have led to stronger drugs on local streets, and an increase in fentanyl-containing drugs has been documented. The Federal Synthetic Opioid Trafficking Commission reported that two-thirds of overdose deaths nationwide from June 2020 to May 2021 were due to fentanyl and synthetic opioids.

A community project

To see what citizens thought were areas of concern, a 25-question community needs assessment got 730 responses, twice as many as needed, Willis noted. Interviews were conducted with community leaders and responses were ranked according to their level of readiness or the readiness of the community to act.

Willis applauded the county’s progress so far in creating an action plan and proposed that Surry County was doing “one hundred percent more than one-third of North Carolina counties.”

Having an action plan is essential in the use of the settlement money, everything must fall within the scope of the memorandum of understanding. The settlement requires data collection, analysis and reporting on program effectiveness – similar to federal grants – to ensure compliance with the MOU.

Commissioner Van Tucker asked his constituents what he could say about what was being done, Willis advised, “Tell them we have a plan: our citizens say they want it, MOA says we can do it, and we have a plan, so we know what we’re going to spend.

“We need to be able to build a program in this county that will adapt to any problem. You’ve gone through crack, heroin, opioid pills, and now we’re looking at new psychoactive substances. There will be something else in the next few years, we will have systems in place that can handle whatever the next outbreak. »

An ounce of prevention

The plan emphasizes prevention and will hire an outreach coordinator to lead prevention education groups with youth and distribute information, at an estimated annual cost of $117,000. “What we have to do with prevention programs – these are usually the last things to do. I think we should build a protective dome around Surry County that rivals anything anyone has ever seen.

“We enlisted the help of Partners Health Management to specifically address substance use disorders in this county to saturate this county for 18 months with prevention and SUD-related programs.”

Treatment programs, as well as the addition of counselors and addiction specialists to the prison will be essential to breaking the cycle of violence. The current budget projection is based on estimates for a staff of four and what those salaries would look like in an outside processing center, or about $177,000 per year.

Wills said a healthy recovery system will require a peer support specialist who will partner with the reintegration coordinator to work with detention centers, businesses and treatment centers. The goal is to be able to find jobs for people, like the pilot programs with Leonard Buildings and Wayne Farms that put people into employment after incarceration. Positions are budgets of $188,000 per year.

Partners will help with a volunteer network of recovery coaches to replicate what AA/NA does with mentors, someone to talk to if something goes wrong. This is going to require training for these mentors, the budget provides $10,000 per year to offset these training costs for the mentors.

The regulation is not a miracle solution, it will only be an additional tool in the ongoing fight against drug addiction. Preventing addiction problems before they start is playing offense, treatment and recovery are entirely reactive measures, Willis suggests a plan with more offense.

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