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NC's share of $26 billion opioid settlement could give big boost to WNC drug fight

NC's share of $26 billion opioid settlement could support WNC drug fight
Local governments will have two options to spend their share of a multi-state $26 billion settlement with several opioid producers -- opioid treatment/recovery and misuse prevention initiatives. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

A $26 billion multi-state settlement with several opioid producers could leave North Carolina and local governments to share about $750 million , according to Attorney General Josh Stein's office.

Some of that money could go to efforts to fight the opioid crisis here in the mountains.

It's a fight Robbie Staton knows well.

"Now, as a paramedic, you’re seeing two or three a week, each paramedic, where they’re giving Narcan, sometimes more,” he said. “It’s definitely a problem.”

Staton is part of Buncombe County’s community paramedic program.

"We are doing opioid response," Staton said.

He and his team meet those who overdose where they are.

"Arrive at the person’s house or under a bridge or in a car, wherever they’re at at the time of their overdose. And speak to them about recovery,” Staton said.

NEW TEAM AIMS TO HELP DRUG USERS AFTER THE OVERDOSE

And team members offer addicts a way out -- through recovery.

"It offers medicated treatment for individuals who have an opioid addiction,” he said.

Sarah Gayton has a similar task as the communication integration MAT services director at the Buncombe County Detention Facility.

"It (Medication Assisted Treatment program) offers medicated treatment for individuals who have an opioid addiction,” she said.

More than 3,000 people have received information and resources through the program since it launched last year.

"So, getting resources to North Carolina that can help treat those folks is absolutely essential," Stein said.

COMMUNITY PARAMEDICINE, PEER OVERDOSE RESPONSE TEAM TO JOIN BUNCOMBE COUNTY OPIOID FIGHT

Nearly 17,000 North Carolina residents died because of accidental overdoses from 2000-19.

Stein said a settlement reached Wednesday could change that number going forward.

Local governments will have two options to spend their share of settlement money -- opioid treatment/recovery and misuse prevention initiatives.

"If everything goes to go smoothly, we expect the first payment to be in early April, and then another payment in July, both of next year. And then every July thereafter,” Stein said.

AG STEIN: NC'S SHARE OF OPIOID SETTLEMENT COULD BE $750M

The money is huge, but Gayton said awareness is what could have the biggest impact in the opioid fight.

"Bringing awareness to the entire community, to the nation, even to the world to how dangerous the opioid epidemic really is and how easy it is to fall into addiction,” Gayton said.

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