DUBLIN – The Bladen County Opioid Task Force learned Thursday night the rate of unintentional deaths in Bladen County due to drug overdoses is 29 percent higher than the state average.
The Task Force met for the first meeting held during evening hours, scheduled in order to allow greater community input and attendance. The meeting format included a panel of community leaders who updated guests on current topics, followed by a Q&A session. About 70 people were in attendance.
Eastpointe’s Cheryl Harris began the meeting with new statistics from the North Carolina Injury & Violence Prevention Branch of the N.C. State Center for Health Statistics.
Data from 2012-16 shows, in Bladen County, 15.7 deaths per 100,000 residents. The rate statewide is 12.2 per 100,000 people, making Bladen County nearly 30 percent higher than the state.
Opioids are the overwhelming antagonist. In 2016, prescription opioids contributed to deaths 620 times, and heroin did so 538 times in the state. On the other hand, cocaine contributed to 488 unintentional medication and drug overdose deaths in N.C. in 2016.
The problem in Bladen County is affecting all ages, the surveys show. Nearly one-fourth of the deaths in Bladen County – 22 percent – were in children under the age of 18. Young adults – those 18 to 24 years old) contributed to only eight percent of the problem, while the remainder were found in adults 25 to 44 years old (23 percent), 45 to 64 years old (29 eprcent) and 65 years and over (19 percent).
“Watch your children. Read their text messages” was a refrain repeated by numerous panel members.
“If you see ‘blue’, ‘yellow’, or ‘green’ with ‘how many do you have?’ on your child’s phone, call me and I’ll tell you what those words mean and what kind of pills they’re on,” advised Lt. Richard Allen with the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office.
“I wish we had more response from the public,” said Bladen County Commissioner Charles Peterson. “They missed some good information.”
Comprising the group of attendees were elected officials, numerous Bladen Community College staff members, representatives from Bladen County Schools, the medical community, mental health providers, a large contingent of faith-based organizations, Carolina Crossroads personnel, law enforcement and the district attorney’s office, pharmacists, and members of the community.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.