Thank you for being one of our most loyal readers. Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing to The Wilson Times.
U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield used Wilson’s opioid crisis as an example during a health subcommittee hearing earlier this week on Capitol Hill.
On Wednesday during testimony and proposals on the opioid crisis, Butterfield addressed the issue that plagues many in North Carolina, including Wilson. He said he’s worked closely with others to ensure the supply chain for potentially dangerous narcotics is airtight.
Butterfield, D-Wilson, was one of more than 50 congressional members who spoke Wednesday, sharing their stories about their communities and legislative ideas to combat the opioid crisis. Butterfield, a senior subcommittee member, said he worked closely with many colleagues on the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act that was passed into law, which provides grants to states to support prevention, treatment, recovery and education efforts around the opioid crisis. The law also expanded access to overdose reversal drug naloxone.
“That bill included roughly 20 different legislative proposals to help slow the opioid epidemic,” Butterfield continued. “As part of the 21st Century Cures Act, $500 million in supplemental funding to address opioid abuse was approved last year alone.”
The goal of that bill is to improve prescription drug monitoring programs, make treatment programs more accessible, train health care professionals in best practices for addiction treatment, and research the most effective approaches to prevent dependency.
“Despite the investments and attention from Congress, we are still feeling the opioid crisis close to home in North Carolina. During the August work period, I saw the effect of the epidemic on my community in Wilson, North Carolina,” Butterfield said. “This August alone there were two deaths because of opioid use.”
Butterfield cited the Wilson Times’ articles documenting the upswing in heroin and opioid overdoses here during a six-week period from July to August. He also referred to Wilson County Emergency Medical Services administering naloxone — a life-saving antidote which reverses an opioid overdose — 28 times by mid-August when they usually administer the treatment 30 times per quarter.
Across the state, there were 500 opioid diagnoses in overdose emergency room visits in July, compared to 410 during that time last year, Butterfield also said.
He said the administration is not taking the situation seriously.
“The budget offered by the Trump Administration cuts Health and Human Services by 16 percent, the Centers for Disease Control by 17 percent, and the National Institutes of Health by 19 percent,” he said.
Butterfield said he was also very concerned about the proposals to “gut” the Medicaid program that “we have considered in this very committee.”
“The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that nearly 100,000 people with an opioid-use disorder have gained coverage through Medicaid Expansion under the Affordable Care Act,” he said. “Congress must do all it can to help stop this epidemic from devastating more lives, families and communities. Congress should provide certainty in funding to combat this epidemic ...”
Butterfield is the cosponsor of the 2017 Opioid and Heroin Abuse Crisis Investment Act of 2017, a bill that would amend the 21st Century Cures Act to appropriate funds for the account of the state response to the opioid abuse crisis through 2023 and for other purposes.
“We also must protect existing funding for research and opioid use disorder coverage, provide tools to communities to address this epidemic, and reduce stigma for those needing treatment,” he said.
In recent months, Wilson has launched multiple initiatives to combat the problem here. From law enforcement to health agencies, as well as the Wilson County Substance Prevention Coalition, a united front has emerged.
Programs include the Wilson Police Department’s Hope Alliance program, which is a safe way for opioid and heroin addicts to get help without fear of being arrested of prosecuted as well as connecting those individuals to vital community resources including treatment. A person who is ready to enter into detox or residential treatment will have an opportunity to seek help through the Wilson Police Department and its partners.
Wilson County’s syringe exchange program also launched this week. The Community Recovery Resource Center opened last month and is there for those who suffer substance abuse disorders. The center’s role includes helping people address substance abuse, maintain their recovery through a variety of programs and increase employment.