WILMINGTON — Congressman David Rouzer addressed local leaders from New Hanover County Monday afternoon during a planned meeting to help bridge the gap between local elected officials and those in Washington.
Members from the New Hanover Board of Commissioners and officials from all municipalities attended the informal session, where they discussed several issues affecting the region.
One of the most discussed topics was the focus on the opioid crisis that has affected the entire country, but has also had a severe impact on the Cape Fear region. Rouzer discussed different key factors in the epidemic.
“The reason why I wanted to bring it up with you all and focus on it a little bit is it is going to require a comprehensive approach,” Rouzer said. “This is a national epidemic but it is also a local epidemic … Since 1999, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids has quadrupled. From 2000 – 2015, more than half a million people died from drug overdoses, 91 Americans die a day from opioids.”
He also made note that, unlike other drug addictions, the opioid crisis is often caused by members of society who are on pain medication for injuries or surgeries who become addicted, rather than people choosing to go out and use drugs for recreational purposes.
Rouzer emphasized the need for more education in the community when it comes to the epidemic, and he encouraged local leaders to work together to help address the issue.
Rouzer said in Congress the issue is being addressed and is even included in drafted healthcare reforms, although he acknowledged the difficulty in passing a healthcare bill at this time.
He gave examples from other local cities that have found ways of dealing with the issue, including allowing drug users to go to police and not fear going to jail, but to receive treatment. He said this has already helped 172 residents and crime has decreased by 40 percent in that city.
The Congressman also discussed the revitalization of the federal flood insurance policy, which did not look favorable for coastal communities previously, he said.
One of the issues not discussed in depth was that of GenX and other unregulated compounds being found in the Cape Fear River. According to Rouzer, there is nothing stopping the state agency the Department of Environmental Quality from addressing these concerns and forbidding the disposal of them into waterways.
Local leaders addressed several of their concerns, which echoed some of the sentiments Rouzer shared – especially on the need to combat the opioid crisis and the need for federal funding for the issue.
Rouzer spoke briefly on passing a federal budget bill, as well as finding a health care bill that will be approved by both bodies of congress.
Michael Praats can be contacted via email at Michael.email@example.com.