A Critical Moment to Invest in Opioid Treatment
Now is the time for Wake County to invest in evidence-based addiction treatment to serve more people, many of whom are the most vulnerable among us.
By Adam Hartzell, CEO, SouthLight Healthcare
At 5:30 this morning, hundreds of people began lining up outside SouthLight Healthcare to receive life-saving medication to treat opioid addiction.
As Wake County’s trusted provider of behavioral health and substance use treatment, SouthLight serves 600 people every day in our Opioid Treatment Clinic. Those served went on to work on construction sites, at restaurants and in offices, went to school, to care for children, or to participate in the community in a variety of ways. You see these people every day—at the store, in the café, or at your dinner table—regardless of whether you knew it or not.
The opioid crisis has been a game changer in how we view addiction and how we must treat it. It is no longer enough to simply “just say no.” Upwards of eight people die every day in North Carolina as a result of an opioid overdose.
SouthLight alone has seen a 10% increase in people seeking opioid treatment in the last three months. The opioid epidemic is all around us.
We are at a critical moment initiated by out-of-control pharmaceutical availability, and exacerbated by illegal distribution of narcotics, an isolating pandemic, and the co-occurring mental health crisis. The need for action has hit code red! Resources are being stretched as the numbers continue to climb. We must get ahead now, or as a community, we risk even further long-term devastation and suffering.
The recent opioid settlement led in-part by our own North Carolina Attorney General, Josh Stein, offers a unique opportunity to turn the corner on opioid addiction. The historic $26 billion agreement will infuse local communities with funds to pay for life saving programs and services. Wake County alone will receive $35 million over 18 years.
This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to surge an influx of resources at a serious community health problem that impacts us all.
Medications to treat opioid use, coupled with counseling and community supports, have been proven to be highly successful and the most effective treatment. SouthLight is Wake County’s largest non-profit substance use and mental health treatment organization. Our services are available to all, no matter where they are on their recovery journey and regardless of their ability to pay or insurance status.
Now is the time for Wake County to invest in evidence-based addiction treatment to serve more people, many of whom are the most vulnerable among us. Our neighbors who are living in poverty, who are unemployed or uninsured, are experiencing homelessness, or are in crisis cannot be left behind. Additionally, people in recovery, working through a difficult journey, deserve resources to be invested in recovery support services—things like counseling, medication funding, mental health treatment, and housing and transportation assistance.
Not providing resources to effective services leads to increased employee shortages, higher healthcare costs and high utilization of costly crisis services.
Many will see these funds and make claim to get a share. Resources should be focused on proven treatments and support services that are provided by community-based organizations closest to those at the center of the crisis.
Together, we can break the grip that opioids have on our community.
Adam Hartzell is CEO of SouthLight Healthcare, a triangle-based not-for-profit provider of substance use and mental health treatment services.