Eight organizations across the state will now be able to increase their recovery services, supports and accessibility for individuals with substance use disorders.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is awarding nearly $4,000,000 across eight community-based organizations to increase the availability of services provided by Certified Peer Support Specialists.

Peer Support Specialists are people living in recovery with mental illness and/or substance use disorder and who provide support to help others in their recovery through their lived experiences. The North Carolina Certified Peer Support Specialist Program is a collaborative project between the department and the UNC School of Social Work, Behavioral Health Springboard, that assures each peer support specialist has met a set of requirements necessary to provide support to individuals with mental health or substance use disorder.


Local organizations update Buncombe on opioid response

Mountain Xpress Posted on  by Xpress Contributor

By Will Bahr

The opioid crisis is bad everywhere in North Carolina. It’s worse in Buncombe County.

According to figures shared with the county Board of Commissioners by Dr. Shuchin Shukla, a physician and opioid crisis educator with the Mountain Area Health Education Center, Buncombe’s rate of overdose deaths has exceeded the statewide average since at least 2016. In 2021, the county suffered 45.2 deaths per 100,000 residents, compared with 35.8 deaths per 100,000 for North Carolina as a whole.

Shukla was among several stakeholders who briefed the board about opioid issues Oct. 4. Representatives from local reentry program Sunrise Community for Recovery and Wellness, the county’s Post Overdose Response Team and the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office all shared updates on their work and discussed specific efforts they’d like to see supported.

The briefing came as Buncombe continues to plan its spending of over $16 million toward fighting the opioid epidemic. That money, which comes from a historic settlement in litigation involving opioid distributors and manufacturers, will be paid to the county in increments over 18 years. Buncombe has received $621,438 so far and is slated to receive another payment of nearly $1.4 million soon.

Current Sunrise employees Kat Sullivan and Tyler Grooms spoke candidly of their histories with addiction and the necessity of reentry programs. Grooms, who said he had been 18 months sober as of Oct. 4, said that he had previously “overdosed over 100 times — as far as I know, more than anyone else in Western North Carolina.”


Opioid use disorder treatment in jails making strides in North Carolina

WUNC North Carolina Public Radio | By Rachel Crumpler/NC Health News

Published September 28, 2022 at 8:29 AM EDT


Elijah Bazemore believes there needs to be a paradigm shift in the way detention facilities — jails and prisons — are managed.

“What we’re doing is putting a person back into the community the same way they came in — broken and torn up,” said Bazemore, who recently retired as a major from the Durham County Sheriff’s Office after more than 30 years.

“We should be in a position to try to help that person be a better person when they are released out of the facility. That’s going to reduce recidivism,” he said. “We should be working to eliminate our jobs by helping people.”

Establishing programs that provide medications for opioid use disorder in jails is part of that paradigm shift, he said.

That’s where Samantha Brawley came in, sharing her own story in her previous role as a peer support specialist in the Buncombe jail’s addiction program with both detention staff and people going through the program. Her personal experience illustrates just how effective these medications can be.

Brawley said she had tried everything for her opioid use disorder: faith-based programs, Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, in-patient treatment centers.

None of it worked.



NC attorney general impressed by Buncombe County opioid addiction treatment program

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein visited Asheville on Monday, July 25, to take a tour of the Buncombe County Detention Facility.

During his tour, Stein was briefed on the jail’s ‘MAT’ program. The “Medication-Assisted Treatment” program is an effort to help detainees recover from opioid addiction.

“I really believe that Buncombe County can really be a model to other counties across the state,” Stein said. “It’s all about attacking the crisis of the opioid epidemic.”



Recovery community seeks to stop more overdoses with naloxone

Mountain Xpress Posted on  by Jessica Wakeman

On Sept. 13, Buncombe County Health & Human Services issued an alert on social media and to local groups like the Homeless Coalition about a spike in overdoses in the county.

“Please be advised, over the last several days there has been a continued spike in probable overdoses in Buncombe County,” the email alert from spokesperson Stacey Wood read. The alert continued, “we strongly encourage agencies to distribute naloxone,” and it urged drug users to test substances with fentanyl test strips before use.

Although the purpose of BCDHHS’ alert was to warn the community about potential overdoses, it also put naloxone, a primary weapon in the fight against the opioid epidemic, front and center. Naloxone is a Food and Drug Administration-approved overdose reversal medication. Those who work in the field of harm reduction — meaning the strategies to reduce harm to physical and sexual health that can result from drug use — say this lifesaving drug that is easy enough for a layperson to administer can’t be distributed widely enough.


Buncombe leaders use community feedback to develop strategies to fight opioid overdoses

WLOS News 13 by Taylor Thompson 

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (WLOS) — Buncombe County leaders have worked to identify strategies to prioritize opioid response funding in the community. As combating the opioid crisis has been a priority for the county, leaders have looked to the community for feedback on new strategies to help lower the number of overdoses.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics in 2021, the annual rate of overdoses in Buncombe County was 45.2, almost 10 points higher than the state rate of 35.8.

Community feedback so far has warranted focus on five specific areas — collaborative strategic planning, evidence-based addiction treatment, recovery support services, Naloxone distribution and reentry programs.

The strategies were based on the need to focus on recovery housing and expanding access to medications for opioid use disorder. They also included a need for more additional access to naloxone as there had been an increase in demand.

Presenters attended a briefing before the Buncombe County Commission meeting Tuesday for an opioid update.

“People are not looking for mandated services, they’re looking for programs that provide support and accept people exactly where they’re at,” Sunrise operations director Courtney Lytle said.

The Sunrise program Linkage2Care has worked on improving a person’s re-entry to the community post-release from prison, when the likelihood of an overdose is 40 times more likely than the general population, officials said.

Lytle said the program has had great success over the last 2 1/2 years in reducing overdose deaths because of the resources they’ve provided through the program.

Kat Sullivan, who went through the program, is now a reentry coordinator.

“A week before being released from prison, I was connected with a program, that program’s Linkage2Care, this program saved my life,” Sullivan said.

She said being able to be a coordinator has been a full-circle moment for her as she remembered someone using their past to help her. Now, she has the chance to do the same.


Counties begin looking at how to spend millions in opioid settlement allotments

WLOS News 13 by Andrew James 

Several western North Carolina counties are beginning to decide how they will use millions of dollars of opioid settlement funding being distributed to counties.

In April, North Carolina governments started receiving the start of $750 million in total funds from a $26 billion multi-state national opioid settlement in which Attorney General Josh Stein’s office played a role. The lawsuit was against three of the nation’s major pharmaceutical distributors and Johnson and Johnson, on behalf of the millions of people who have died due to the opioid epidemic.

Buncombe County is set to receive $16,175,039 over a 17-year period. Henderson County will receive $8,897,700.

Buncombe County staff are beginning to make recommendations for that $16.175 million.