Polk to hold forum to tackle substance abuse

Published 9:00 pm Friday, August 25, 2017

COLUMBUS – Polk County is trying to address the growing epidemic of opioid and substance abuse in the county and will begin with a forum next month.


The county will hold an opioid and substance abuse forum on Oct. 24, which will be an invite only event because of space limitations.

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The Polk County Board of Commissioners met Aug. 21 and heard from Consolidated Human Services Agency Director Joshua Kennedy about the epidemic and the forum.

Kennedy said commissioners took on the challenge presented by the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners (NCACC) during the July meeting to develop a forum with community members and stakeholders to address the growing epidemic of opioid and substance misuse.


Kennedy said prior to the NCACC challenge, Polk County had a number of groups actively engaged in the planning process to combat this issue. The groups working on opioid and substance misuse include Polk County’s Consolidated Human Services Agency, PF3’s subcommittee: Polk Substance Abuse Coalition (PSAC), Polk County’s Community Child Fatality Prevention and Protection Team and several other active groups, according to Kennedy.


“Key element number one in our favor going forward,” Kennedy said, “is that Polk County community groups have a history of supporting efforts like this one to develop strategies to address this epidemic.”


Kennedy added that in the past couple of years, these groups have helped in keeping Polk County slightly ahead in the mission to find long-term solutions to the epidemic.


Examples of the groups’ work include the PF3 and PSAC’s partners who supported projects like the prescription take back programs and the child fatality prevention and protection team’s work and conversations about supporting Polk County’s young children and families who are affected by opioid and substance misuse.


“Our future relies on the healthy growth and development of today’s children,” Kennedy told commissioners. “As adults we are responsible for ensuring all children have safe, stable, nurturing and healthy environments so they can thrive.


Kennedy said he is sure there is not one person in the room that has not been affected by addiction.


In addition to his presentation at the county commission meeting, Kennedy also shared presentations with Columbus, Saluda and Tryon councils this month.

“While many have found peace through recovery, many are still seeking peace,” Kennedy said.


Kennedy said there are no by-standers allowed. He said this is everyone’s challenge, from the fast food restaurant owner to the mother who is caring for a son or daughter who is trying to avoid relapse.


The agenda for the Oct. 24 forum includes discussing shared interests in solutions, understanding opioid overuse and addiction, a local perspective from law enforcement, what the data says about Polk County and the region, how the epidemic affects families, the current solutions for prevention, education and treatment and a call to action.


Prescription and drug overdoses in North Carolina

Since 1999, the number of prescription and drug overdoses has increased more than 391 percent, from 279 to 1,370 in 2015, according to the North Carolina Injury and Violence Prevention Branch.


Of the unintentional poisoning deaths in the state, 92.6 percent are caused by drugs and medications (over-the-counter, prescription and illicit). Of the overdoses, seven percent are caused by toxins or chemicals.


Males die from overdose more frequently than females with 870 males in North Carolina dying in 2015 compared to 500 females. Whites and Native Americans have the highest rate of unintentional poising deaths.


Prescription opioid pain medications include drugs such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and methadone.


Prescription opioid pain medications are responsible for more deaths than heroin and cocaine combined.


Prescription and drug overdoses in the U.S.

In 2014, which was the latest year for national data, nearly 30,000 people died from opioid overdoses in the U.S. That number increased steadily during the last two decades, from 6,242 deaths in 2000, to 12,991 in 2005, to 19,687 in 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


In 1991, health professionals wrote 76 million opioid prescriptions in the U.S., compared to 219 million prescriptions in 2011.


Overall, Americans consume up to 80 percent of the world’s prescription opioids.


On average, healthcare professionals dispense more than 650,000 opioid prescriptions per day in the U.S.


Each day, 3,900 people initiate nonmedical use of prescription opioids for the first time in the U.S., 580 people use heroin for the first time in the U.S. each day and 78 people die from an opioid related overdose each day.


A community screening of the documentary Resilience: The Biology of Stress & The Science Of Hope will be available for the public to view at the Isothermal Community College in Columbus on Sept. 21 from 8-10 a.m., from 2-4 p.m. and from 6:30-8:30 p.m.