Opioid Task Force announces progress — hopes to get stronger

By: W. Curt Vincent - Bladen Journal

DUBLIN — The county-wide support for the fledgling Opioid Task Force remained strong Tuesday, as a diverse group of 56 local and regional leaders gathered at Bladen Community College for its sixth monthly meeting.

But the call that went out a number of times emphasized the need for that support to continue growing in numbers.

“The real key to this being successful is if each of us can get out into our communities and talk about this crisis,” said County Commissioner Charles Ray Peterson, who spearheads the Task Force effort. “Getting this many people together on a consistent basis in Bladen County is really something, but it’s got to keep growing.”

A highlight of Tuesday’s meeting was the announcement by Peterson that the county had been approved last week for a one-year $50,000 grant through Eastpointe MCO to help fund the Bladen County Detention Center’s jail diversion program.

Richard Allen, a narcotics officer with the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office, said there are currently 10 women ready to get involved in the program and that he’s heard there may be a few men wanting to participate, as well. That program is expected to begin in early March.

In addition, Allen talked about community outreach programs to discuss the opioid crisis, with the next one scheduled for Galeed Baptist Church in Bladenboro on March 14 at 7 p.m. Those discussions will be aimed at how folks can safely dispose of and/or store their meds.

He also said there will be pill take-back event planned in the near future in Elizabethtown and/or White Lake. Allen also reported that he was recently part of a 7th Congressional District opioid meeting with U.S. Rep. David Rouzer.

In other business on Tuesday:

— It was announced that Southeastern Carolina Crossroads had extended its 42-day men’s program to 60 days.

— Amy Munn told the group that Teen Challenge has raised $6,781 so far for its women’s facility in Ammon, and will need another $35,000 soon to take over the facility and 30 acres of land. The group will hold a spaghetti dinner fundraiser on Saturday, Feb. 24, from 4 to 7 p.m. at Windsor United Methodist Church in Elizabethtown. Suggested donation is $6 and there will also be a silent auction.

— County Commissioner Arthur Bullock spoke about his participation in the Southeastern Conference, where state Department of Health & Human Services reps talked about the opioid crisis as one of their top three priorities. He pointed out that Wilmington and Fayetteville are in the nation’s top 18 for worst affected cities with opioid abuse, “and we are right between those two.”

—Cheryl Harris of Eastpointe told the group about a training program recently offered, and two Bladen County residents were part of the graduating class last week.

— County Manager Greg Martin announced there are several grant opportunities available, and that the county would be exploring those soon.

— Peterson told the group about a “Dementia Friendly” kick-off meeting to be held at Bladen Community College on Tuesday, Feb. 27, from 1 to 4 p.m. Peterson said, “Bladen County is growing older, so this is another important area we need to get involved in.”

The next meeting of the county’s Opioid Task Force will be Tuesday, March 13, at 2 p.m.at BCC.

W. Curt Vincent can be reached at 910-862-4163 or cvincent@bladenjournal.com.

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W. Curt Vincent

Bladen Journal