DUBLIN — Bladen County’s community leaders aren’t slowing their efforts to get a handle on the growing opioid abuse epidemic that is sweeping the state and nation.
On Thursday, a whittled-down version of the Opioid Task Force formed in July gathered at Bladen Community College for round-table, group discussions on the issue. About 40 folks — including elected officials and representatives from law enforcement, schools, the faith community, EMS, local pharmacists, mental health providers and others — attended the get-together.
They were immediately told of the seriousness of the issue.
“Unfortunately, there is no single fix,” said County Chairman Charles Ray Peterson. “But anything we can do as a group will help.”
That sentiment was echoed by Bladen County Health and Human Services Director David Howard.
“We’re not going to solve the epidemic today,” he said, “but we do hope to start identifying action items.”
Those in attendance were broken up into five groups, each given a specific area of discussion — resource awareness, education and communication to the community; gaps in resources and filling those gaps; data, information gathering and tracking; education in local communities; and prevention of opioid abuse and addiction.
Each group attempted to establish solutions and efforts to turn the tide against the opioid epidemic, and many of those solutions evolved around community awareness from youth groups to senior citizens.
Some of the discussions focused on the use of established events like Red Ribbon Week and the GREAT program for eighth-graders, which replaced the DARE program in Bladen County.
Suggestions also included increased use of community drop boxes for residents to dispose of unused prescriptions, and lock boxes in the homes to keep medication away from children.
It was also suggested that an education effort be made through the local media, as well as through social media.
Once group took a positive outlook by suggesting the community get the chance to hear a success story from someone who battled opioid addiction and won.
“A success story can be a key for someone going through this,” said Vicki Smith, director of Bladen County Department of Social Services. “To see and hear someone who has been where an addict is and managed to work through it could go a long way.”
Smith’s group also suggested folks watch the Netflix documentary titled “Anonymous People,” saying it sent a strong message.
According to several community leaders, the opioid problem reaches far beyond Bladen County in unusual ways. They said there are what is termed “county jumpers” and “state jumpers” — those who get their opioids from multiple sources in other counties and states, most using “doctored” prescriptions.
Other suggestions included the use of a free county tip line to report sellers of opioids, legislation to allow pharmacists to view other states’ opioid data, and put information about the effects of opioid abuse directly into the hands of prescription customers.
One other potential solution took a simplistic approach.
“As strange as it may seem, exercise will help take away the pain in many cases,” said County Commissioner Arthur Bullock.
The group discussions and presentations came to a close after two hours and Peterson wrapped up the meeting.
“What will happen is that these action items will be compiled and taken to the Design Team of about 35 (the original discussion group established in July),” he said. “From there, the group will decide how to move forward.”
W. Curt Vincent can be reached at 910-862-4163 or firstname.lastname@example.org.