DUBLIN — Nearly 50 of the area’s community leaders gathered at Bladen Community College on Tuesday for another meeting of the Opioid Task Force, but the usual updates and planning for continued action to stem the drug abuse crisis was upstaged by a personal story — and the call for more.
Chrysta Carroll, a staff writer for the Bladen Journal, recounted her story (“Trading sex for pills,” Nov. 17. 2017) that was part of a series about an Elizabethtown mother who watched her daughter slip into drug addiction after a car accident — and saw the subsequent predatory “swooping in like a vulture” by someone looking for an easy sex target.
As the crowd in the BCC auditorium became hushed to a point where only the discreet whoosh of air exiting the air vents and Carroll’s emotion-laden voice could be heard, she told of how prostitution played a growing part in the woman’s daughter.
“First, there was the promise of a rental house at no charge,” Carroll said. “But, of course, there was a charge — it started with what was termed ‘sex shows’ and progressed from there. It just kept getting worse.”
For the young woman who had lost her job because of drug addiction and had little else positive to build her future on, getting out from under the control of someone who provided a place to live and money to feed the addiction to pain killers seemed impossible. The sex simply became a means to an end.
“Everyone in Bladen County knew it was going on … everyone,” Carroll said she was told. “But nobody wanted to do anything — and there are others, too.”
Carroll told the group the reason this mother wanted her story told was simple: “She wants someone to take this seriously and put a stop to it.” Carroll also added her own plea: “If we’re going to stop opioid abuse, we have to stop men from being enablers and taking advantage of someone’s weakness.”
David Foster, director of the Bladen Baptist Association, suggested that more personal stories would help the group to continue growing.
“It’s one thing to operate under a kind of administrative group, planning events and talking about solutions,” he said. “But hearing stories about and from people who have and are experiencing this kind of battle would really hit people.
“We need to have these real-life stories to get the public more involved,” Foster added.
Bladen County Sheriff Jim McVicker pointed to the Bladen County Detention Center’s relatively new Jail Diversion Program as a potential source for speakers.
“I think we can get some from that group (to come speak),” he said.
In other news, the group:
— Heard an update from Amy Munn about the Teen Challenge effort to secure a property in Bladen County. She said fundraisers have and will be held, and those behind the program have until May 15 to raise $30,000. She also added that, “what we do here within these four walls has to get outside of these four walls, so we can realize the changes we want to see take place.”
— Heard from County Manager Greg Martin about a grant opportunity through the UNC School of Government and Blue Cross/Blue Shield that would award $20,000 to 10 counties to fight opioid abuse. Bladen County will apply for that grant, which has an April 6 deadline.
— Heard from Richard Allen, a narcotics investigator with the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office, about planned programs in area schools and churches, as well as a potential pill take-back event. He also said literature will be given out during opening day for Elizabethtown Dixie Youth Baseball at Leinwand Park on April 14.
— Was told by Cheryl Harris of Eastpointe that a billboard would be put up in Elizabethtown on Monday to publicize the “Lock Your Meds” campaign. She also spoke about the upcoming Harm Reduction Summit on April 10 at BCC, which will take the place of the next Opioid Task Force meeting.
— Heard from Barry priest, vice president for student services at BCC, who talked about the campus being tobacco free because “we recognize that tobacco and smokeless tobacco can be a gateway drug.”
W. Curt Vincent can be reached at 910-862-4163 or firstname.lastname@example.org.