ELIZABETHTOWN — A scaled down gathering of the Bladen County Opioid Task Force on Tuesday focused on two main areas for moving forward — getting grants and getting information to the community.
“We really need to start going after more grants,” said Charles Ray Peterson, a county commissioner who is heading up the Task Force. “A lot of what we hope to do in the future — programs, events, whatever — will take money.”
But applying for grants is just half the equation.
“The challenge is … what are we going to do with the money when we get it?” asked County Manager Greg Martin. “If we are going to ask for money, we need to have a plan in place for using it.”
The group of 16 participants agreed that setting up a grant committee would be a logical next step. That committee will consist of Martin; Charlotte Smith, owner of Cab Marketing; Sondra Guyton, vice president for Workforce and Continuing Education at Bladen Community College; and David Foster, director of missions for the Bladen Baptist Association.
Smith said three areas where money would be useful were a Narcotics Anonymous group, Al-Anon and a pier group.
At the suggestion by Peterson, the group thought another step would be to organize a community forum in an effort to get information to the public about the opioid crisis and what is being done in Bladen County.
That community meeting will be held Thursday, May 24, at Bladen Community College at 6:30 p.m. It will feature a panel of local folks who have been involved with the Task Force — including representatives from the sheriff’s office, a local pharmacy, Bladen County Schools, the local media, Eastpointe, the faith community and others.
Along with light refreshments, the forum is also expected to include a few personal stories from those who have been through a drug addiction and recovery, as well as a question and answer segment.
Other business discussed Tuesday included:
— Richard Allen, a narcotics investigator with the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office, gave an update on the programs being offered to area churches to discuss lock-boxes and other information. He said there have been about 10 presented, but more are needed. he said any church looking for a program can call him at 910-862-6960.
“We can’t just roll up to a church,” he said. “So they need to contact us.”
“They do a wonderful job with the program,” said Pastor Warren Hill. “And the people really get a lot out of it.”
— The group also heard an update on the Jail Diversion program, which has run into a glitch with the District Attorney’s Office.
“They tell us that the eligible people are going to be first-timers or have a low charge and can easily bond out — probable up to three times,” Allen said. “These people aren’t going to sit in jail and get involved in this program.
“The DA’s Office thinks we’re trying to re-invent the wheel,” he added, “but we’re still trying to work with them — and I understand their side, but I know what we need to do, too.”
Peterson said the best thing they can do now is to sit down with District Attorney Jon David, Judge Douglas Sasser and Judge Scott Ussery to discuss the issue.
“We have $50,000 sitting in the bank that has to be used specifically for this program,” Peterson said. “So it’s imperative we get this figured out soon.”
— The group heard an update from Amy Munn on the county’s Teen Challenge facility and the Celebrate Recovery Program.
The next meeting of the smaller Task Force group will be June 12 at the Bladen County Health Department at 2 p.m., where plans for a larger Task Force meeting will be planned for July.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached at 910-862-4163 or firstname.lastname@example.org.