Advocates and faith groups are calling for more investments in harm reduction across the state, as new provisional data shows overdose deaths have increased statewide in North Carolina by 26 percent.
It is estimated more than 3,900 people lost their lives to drug overdoses last year.
Elizabeth Brewington, associate director for partners in health and wholeness overdose response at the North Carolina Council of Churches, said communities are feeling the impacts of devastating loss.
"These statistics represent a child of God, someone who is someone's child, loved one, family member," Brewington noted. "And so, people of faith are concerned about this because these are our communities, these are our neighbors, our family members."
According to the American Medical Association, the pandemic has led to spikes in overdoses across the country driven by illicit fentanyl, methamphetamine, and cocaine. Overdoses related to prescription opioids and heroin remain high and also are increasingly contaminated with illicit fentanyl.
The state's counties and largest cities are slated to receive $750 million from a recent settlement with drug distributors Cardinal, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen and opioid manufacturers Johnson & Johnson and Purdue Pharma.
Brewington added the settlement represents an opportunity for communities and local governments to put evidence-based services into practice.
"We know that distributing naloxone is associated with a 50% drop in overdose fatalities," Brewington explained. "We know that syringe exchanges are highly effective in reducing overdose."
Research shows harm-reduction strategies can help mitigate the effects of drug abuse.
Source: North Carolina News Service