ROCKINGHAM — Three local agencies have been awarded grants from Richmond County’s portion of the opioid settlement to help quell drug addiction and overdoses.
The Richmond County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday approved the recommendations from the Drug Endangered Family Task Force to allocate a total of $150,000 to FirstHealth, Samaritan Colony and the N.C. Cooperative Extension.
DEFT chose these three out of eight applicants during a meeting on July 26, and the presentation to commissioners was made by Social Services Director Robby Hall.
(Disclosure: This writer is a media representative on the Drug Endangered Family Task Force, but is not a voting member.)
The Cooperative Extension will use $50,003 for the NC 4-H Empowering Youth and Families program and Healthy Rocks! program.
Empowering Youth and Families is an early prevention effort targeting 300-400 middle school students and caregivers by trying to reach students before they start using opioids, according to the application summary.
“Participants learn how opioids and other illegal substances affect the brain and refusal skills they can use if presented with a dangerous choice,” the summary reads.
The stated goal of Health Rocks! is “to bring youth, families, and communities together to reduce tobacco, alcohol, and drug use through building life skills; understanding influences; making healthier choices; engaging youth and adults in partnerships; and building positive, enduring relationships.”
Samaritan Colony was awarded $49,500 to support its residential treatment program.
That 28-day evidence-based program currently serves men ages 18 and older by addressing the mental, physical and spiritual components of addiction to opioids and other substances by offering cognitive behavioral therapy, job placement assistance, transition planning, addiction treatment, housing assistance and peer support, according to the summary.
Samaritan Colony just started construction on a 13,000 square-foot, 14-bed treatment facility for women.
Commissioners also approved $50,497 for FirstHealth, which serves as the fiscal agent for the Sandhills Opioid Response Consortium Peer Support Program.
“Peer support specialists will be embedded in partner organizations and agencies as well as provide services via telephone and support groups” to serve “individuals seeking treatment and recovery journeys and/or individuals in need of harm reduction education.”
The consortium was created in 2018 to combat opioid addiction in Richmond and Moore counties after FirstHealth received a $600,000 grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration.
The consortium also serves Montgomery, Hoke and Lee counties.
A resolution was approved for each allotment individually.
The other five applicants were: Richmond County Schools; Richmond County Partnership for Children; Richmond Community College; Sandhills Best Care; and Carolina Treatment Center of Pinehurst, which has a program in Richmond County.
While DEFT in charge of allocating the funds, commissioners have the final approval on expenditures. Each grant requires a 10% match.
Last month commissioners approved $58,000 for the purchase of naloxone throughout the year.
At the end of the year, according to Hall, DEFT will create an overall report on the outcomes of the programs that were funded and how the money was spent.
The task force will also be meeting with the municipalities to gather feedback from the community to add into evaluations when making recommendations.
Hall told the commissioners that DEFT may be coming back before the board in January to release more funds.
Finance Director Cary Garner said the county has received $741,704 from the nationwide opioid settlement, and less than half has been committed. Richmond County is slated to receive $4.8 million over an 18-year period.
Commissioner Dr. Rick Watkins said evaluating the success of the programs will be critical in deciding where to spend the funds.
“Some of these programs, I’m sure, will utilize funding and will return in future years make additional requests,” Watkins said, adding that if they haven’t been as effective as planned, “then we need to look at other options and give somebody else an opportunity to provide a solution that might have better results.”