Polk County launches community listening sessions in response to the opioid epidemic

Published 12:06 pm Monday, May 6, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

POLK COUNTY—Polk County’s Opioid Settlement Advisory Committee recently announced a series of community listening sessions as part of a larger community effort to respond to the opioid epidemic. At the sessions, community members will be asked to review strategy options that are allowed under North Carolina’s Opioid Planning Agreement. 

Polk County, along with the other 99 counties in the state, signed on to a Class Action Lawsuit in 2018 to hold drug makers, distributors, and several retail pharmacy chains accountable for fueling the epidemic. This national opioid litigation has resulted in a payout to Polk County of slightly over $3 million, which will be distributed over the course of 18 years.

Nearly 12 North Carolinians die every day from opioid overdose. According to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, 12 Polk County residents died from an overdose in 2022, and in 2023, there were 23 emergency department visits due to overdose. 

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“The data is pretty clear: substance misuse should be a priority focus, but it is also a related factor of several negative outcomes in our community,” says Polk County Health and Human Services Director Joshua Kennedy. “Thanks to the national opioid settlement funds we can put evidence-based practices in place to address negative health outcomes in Polk County.”

Polk County’s Opioid Settlement Advisory Committee was formed to help assess feedback from the listening sessions and determine mitigation strategies and the most effective use of the settlement payments. The committee envisions a resilient recovery community strengthened by evidence-based early intervention, prevention, harm reduction, treatment, and recovery services. These efforts will be supported by a holistic, equitable, empathetic, and stigma-free care model that addresses the challenges of opioid use disorder and co-occurring mental health illness.

The Polk County Community Health Assessment identified substance misuse as a health priority for Polk County in 2021. 

The public is encouraged to participate in the community listening sessions, which will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in communities across the county, as shown in the schedule below.


  • Thursday, May 16, at the Sunny View Clubhouse, 95 Coopers Gap Rd., Mill Spring
  • Tuesday, May 21, at The Congregational Church, UCC, 210 Melrose Avenue, Tryon
  • Tuesday, May 28, at Wheat Greek Baptist Church, 131 Wheat Creek Lane, Rutherfordton
  • Tuesday, June 4, at Saluda United Methodist Church, 132 Greenville St., Saluda
  • Tuesday, June 11, at WithALL, 76 N. Peak St., Columbus


For additional information or to share your thoughts, contact Opioid Response Planner Yanet Cisneros at ycisneros@polknc.org or by phone at (828) 899-0843.