Attorney General Stein visits Craven County to discuss opioid response with community leaders

NEW BERN, N.C. (WITN) – An array of organizations dedicated to helping those overcome opioid abuse met with North Carolina’s attorney general Wednesday.

Josh Stein, who was a lead negotiator in a $26 billion nationwide settlement involving three major pharmaceutical companies, initiated the meeting to brainstorm how some of the funds will be used in Craven County.

Our state got $750 million to fight the opioid epidemic, but only 15% is going to the state’s response. The 85% majority of the money is going to the county and local levels.

“This is a problem that is predominantly experienced and addressed at the local level,” Stein says. “Counties are the ones who run jails, counties are the ones that do DSS, counties have public health departments, so this is where you all can make a difference.”

The state has already been given two payments. The rest will be doled out over the next 18 years.

Craven County is set to receive $8.5 million.

“It’s going to go all to that effort,” Denny Bucher, Craven County Commissioners chair says. “Until we are really organized on how to spend it, we aren’t going to spend any of it, so it’s going to sit there until we are ready.”

Gene McLendon, Hope Mission Ministries executive director, says that many of the people at Wednesday’s discussion were once substance abusers or have had a personal connection to the opioid epidemic. To them, the fight is worth it.

“For those of us who have been in places that we don’t ever want to go to again, to be able to walk into that place and to say to somebody, ‘been here, done that, don’t have to do that anymore, don’t have to live here anymore. I’ve got a better life,’” McLendon said. “There is just a joy that money can’t buy doing that kind of stuff. It’s just a joy to invest in the life of somebody else.”

Stein says there are roughly 3,300 deaths per year on average from overdoses in North Carolina. In Craven County in 2020, there were 47 deaths due to overdoses and 135 emergency department deaths.

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