MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — Tuesday night, the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners heard from the community on how they should allocate millions of dollars from the national opioid settlement.
The state requires local governments to spend the money they’re receiving on opioid remediation activities like evidence-based addiction treatment and recovery housing.
Mecklenburg County is receiving $32.5 million and it must be spent over the span of 18 years. The city of Charlotte is receiving $8 million.
Nearly all counties in the Carolinas are getting paid from the national settlement with opioid manufacturers.
Doctors and concerned community members want the money to go toward addiction programs for teenagers and making treatment more accessible.
"I’ve lost previous students to addiction and I don’t want to lose another student,” Michelle Johncock, a teacher at the Emerald School of Excellence, said.
The Emerald School is a small private school in Charlotte for high school students with substance abuse disorders and mental illnesses.
"Recovery high schools are key for early intervention,” CEO of the school Mary Ferreri added.
Parents joined Ferreri in asking for funds to support the school's mission to help struggling children.
The opioid epidemic has claimed thousands of lives nationally and here at home. More than 28,000 North Carolinians overdosed from 2000-2020, according to the North Carolina Health and Human Services Department.
The agency says prescription medications are a major driver of the issue, but so are illicit drugs like heroin.
Doctors and leaders of treatment centers spoke on the difficulty of finding and affording treatment. Dr. Chris Griggs with Atrium Health said one solution could be creating a mobile overdose response unit.
"It’s really important for us to consider starting a post-overdose response team to provide critical services outside of the walls of the hospital,” Griggs said.
He added that it would bring treatment to people that otherwise refuse or can’t afford help.
"If we’re going to save the most lives, we need to lower the barriers,” Griggs said.
Local governments must report annually how they spend the money. Mecklenburg County told WCNC Charlotte it’ll start allocating the funds in the 2023 budget.
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