Disability Rights North Carolina fighting to combat opioid crisis in NC jails & prisons

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) – North Carolina is facing an overdose death crisis due to a lack of access to lifesaving tools like medications for opioid use disorder, according to Disability Rights North Carolina. But families, workplaces, and communities aren’t the only ones being impacted. The DRNC says North Carolina jails are also taking a hit.

Lisa Gessler, DRNC Staff Attorney, says “People who are leaving incarceration have a 50% more likely chance of dying from an overdose within the first two weeks of release than the general population.”

That’s why local law enforcement and the DRNC are providing treatment and recovery resources.

“All of our detention officers are trained as to how to react to an overdose. A detention officer, at least two times an hour, inspects every cell in that detention agency to check on the condition of an inmate. Master control has an array of cameras where they can view the detention facilities,” said David McFadyen with the Craven County Sheriff’s Office.

They are also monitoring incoming mail to inmates and checking body cavities with the help of new technology such as a digitized mail system and body scanners.

In addition, DRNC and law enforcement agencies are providing lifesaving tools like medications for opioid use disorder and stress the importance of access to them.

“It can’t only save their lives but can also decrease their chances of going back to drug use,” Gessler said.

Brooke Keefe, Pitt County Sheriff’s Office Program Social Worker, also told WITN “It’s so important to meet people where they are in the facility and starting that process while they’re here, building that support, giving them the resources so that they can return to the community, sustain long-term recovery, and ultimately not come back and re-offend for the same charges.”

There are three FDA-approved medications designed to address opioid use disorder or OUD, with Methadone and Buprenorphine emerging as the most effective, according to DRNC.

Methadone and Buprenorphine not only treat the disorder but also significantly reduce the risk of fatal overdoses and the return to illicit drug use and increase the likelihood of remaining in treatment.

The DRNC says that by providing access to these medications, individuals struggling with OUD have the chance to heal and rebuild their lives. Denying them this opportunity is to rob them of a future that’s within their grasp.

For more information on the DRNC efforts, visit the DRNC website.