NEW HANOVER COUNTY — A report prepared by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reveals some numbers that may shock many, or may come as no surprise to those affected by the crisis.
Presented to the New Hanover County Board of Social Services last month, the report outlines the Health Department and the Community Partners Coalition’s findings on the current state of affairs in the Cape Fear region.
“Drug overdoses cause more deaths than motor vehicle accidents and firearms” in North Carolina, the report states. “Our emergency department and jails are ill-equipped to serve those who need detox and facility-based crisis services.”
Over the last 15 years, New Hanover County has seen a 900 percent increase in overdoses. Heroin overdoses have increased 322 percent since 2005.
Last month, New Hanover County filed a lawsuit against manufacturers and distributors of prescription opioids after a national study found Wilmington to have the highest opioid-related abuse rate in the nation.
The impact of opioid abuse can spread far beyond individual overdoses.
Since 2014, there has been a 250 percent increase in infants born addicted to substances. As for the children of opioid addicts, the rate of drug abuse could be impacting the county’s foster care system.
In 2013, 169 children entered foster care due to a parent’s substance abuse and in 2017, 280 children were admitted. This may be due to a population increase, an increase in substance abuse, or both. Forty-three percent of children that enter protective care in New Hanover County are admitted due to their parent’s substance abuse.
The prevalent use of Narcan, a medication used in emergency opioid situations, has been credited with reducing overdose deaths according to Wilmington Police Department spokeswoman Linda Rawley.
As of Jan. 2017, more than 2,500 successful overdose reversals have been reported in New Hanover County, according to the report presented last month.
Of the inmates admitted to the New Hanover County Detention Facility, 57 percent are identified with substance abuse disorder. For individuals lacking insurance or proper healthcare, there are only 16 beds in the region available for detox.
While the report recognizes existing efforts to combat the crisis in the region, it finds there is a “vital resource missing in the community.”
Johanna Ferebee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @j__ferebee on Twitter