LENOIR, N.C. - President Trump held off on declaring a national emergency on the opioid crisis this week despite recommendations from his Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis.
Gov. Roy Cooper, a member of the commission, was critical of the president's lack of action.
"We can't talk our way out of the opioid crisis. We have to take action, and a state of emergency on this issue on the federal level would certainly help to free up more funding," Gov. Cooper declared.
Bethel Colony of Mercy treatment program is trying to free up space to handle the increased demand. The 64-day residential program is at capacity with 82 men.
"There have probably been about 800 to 1000 [people] who have applied, and we're only able to meet about 500 of them at Bethel Colony a year," said Executive Director, Rev. Paul Pruitt.
Opiate-related deaths are up 800% in North Carolina since 1999. The problem appears to be getting to law enforcement. The Lenoir Police Department posted a plea for help on their Facebook page.
"We are seeing an increase in overdoses and drugs being laced with deadly poisons," it reads.
"Please help us rid our community of this perilous stuff. Help us save the lives of our family, friends, and loved ones. It will take all of us working together to make a difference," the post reads."
"It's been serious, and it's got to be even more serious for the police to put a plea like that out," Pruitt declared.
Rev. Pruitt knows the battle of addiction after getting caught up with a crack-cocaine in the 90's.
"I was in it for five years, but the last 20 years of my life have been a lot different then when I was out on the streets," he explained.
However, he says the opioid crisis is even more vicious, and is responsible for nearly all the residents seeking treatment at Bethel Colony.
"If get them to raise their hand who's been struggling with opiate addiction, it would be 90%," Rev. Pruitt declared.
Governor Cooper has earmarked $31 million towards battling the crisis in the state. He says more access to treatment programs through expanded healthcare would make a big difference.
"When we talk about prevention and treatment, healthcare is going to be a centerpiece of this, we cannot arrest our way out of this problem," he declared.
Pruitt says they plan to add nearly 20 beds before the end of the year. Also, the for the first time in Bethel Colony's 70-year history, they plan to start a treatment program for women.
"I wish we didn't have to expand," he said. "But it is something we got to do," Pruitt explained. "Even though it hurts my heart, there's hope, there's healing there is a way out," he declared.
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