Thursday, 22 August 2019 18:08

COLUMN: Curbing the opioid epidemic

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A unfortunate trend has been developing in our region. For the second July in a row, Stanly County emergency rooms have seen the highest rate of opioid overdoses of all 100 North Carolina counties.

In an article this week by the Stanly News & Press, Sheriff Jeff Crisco recognizes the problem may be even worse than the numbers show.

“Some victims choose to go to the hospital where some victims, no they won’t,” Crisco said.

Fortunately though, the overall number of overdoses in Stanly County are down from last year. According to data from the NCDHHS, in 2018 Stanly experienced the highest rate of overdoses in the state, at a rate of 216.3 overdoses per 100,000 residents.

What can we do to curb this tragic epidemic?

First, thanks to bipartisan legislation like the STOP Act, the Opioid Response Act, and Gov. Cooper's Opioid Action Plan, we've seen a reduction in overall overdoses statewide.

Still, there is much more that can be done through legislative action. Medicaid expansion is the best, and most-proven step we can take to immediately curb the opioid epidemic.

One of the best examples is Ohio. The city of Dayton once had more opioid overdoses per capita than any other city, but the rate of overdose deaths has dropped dramatically. While Dayton has utilized several strategies to treat and prevent opioid addiction, one of the most obvious explanations for the decrease in opioid overdoses is the state’s decision to expand Medicaid.

According to an article in the New York Times, with Medicaid now paying for nearly all low-income residents who need it to get addiction treatment, Ohio has been able to go beyond the basics in spending its share of several billion dollars in the opioid grant money the federal government has been giving to states. In just one year, Dayton saw a 54% decrease in opioid-related deaths. The success in Ohio is happening in other rural states who closed the coverage gap, such as Arkansas, New Hampshire and West Virginia.

While expanding Medicaid will not completely stop all overdoses from happening, it is our best step for immediate action to contain this problem.

 

Scott Brewer represents District 66 in the N.C. House of Representatives. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..