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NC Faith Groups Say Opioid Settlement Money Should Go Toward Community Resources

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Thursday, August 12, 2021   

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Faith leaders and support groups across the state are calling on lawmakers to commit to spending the approximately $750 million dollars they will receive from opioid settlement funds on syringe exchange programs, naloxone, medication-assisted treatment, and other life-saving measures.

Louise Vincent, executive director of the North Carolina Survivors Union, said she is concerned about how the money will be spent.

"There is money coming in, and of course we have a lot of hopes and dreams for that money," Vincent acknowledged. "But we have a lot of fears around that money, too. We want to make sure that is spent the right way, and it is spent in a way that people that use drugs are actually impacted in a positive way."

Last month, states reached a $26 billion agreement with the nation's three major pharmaceutical distributors and opioid manufacturer Johnson & Johnson.

Elizabeth Brewington, overdose response program coordinator for the Partners in Health and Wholeness Initiative at the North Carolina Council of Churches, said many faith communities are using their buildings and resources to offer harm reduction strategies. She noted August 31 is International Overdose Awareness Day.

"Another thing churches could get involved with is hosting an overdose awareness service, or somehow commemorating the fact that we've just had this overwhelming loss in our community due to overdose death," Brewington suggested.

Vincent added her organization will host an event led by faith leaders to commemorate overdose victims who died during the pandemic and call attention to an effort called "beyond naloxone," which aims to raise awareness of the fact that people need help long before they're in a situation that requires use of the medication that reverses opioid overdose.

"You have to die to receive naloxone as an intervention," Vincent asserted. "We have to do better than that. We have to think beyond intervention, where you actually have to die to receive the intervention."

In North Carolina, more than five people die of opioid overdose each day. Over the past two decades, more than 16,000 North Carolinians lost their lives to opioid overdose.

Disclosure: North Carolina Council of Churches contributes to our fund for reporting on Environment, Health Issues, Immigrant Issues, and Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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