Local legislators are fighting the opioid crisis

The opioid epidemic is devastating communities around the nation, including right here at home.

Last week, the Macon County Sheriff’s Office Patrol unit was forced to deploy Narcan, a drug that reverses the effects of an overdose, for the first time since the department began carrying the drug. 

Local and state leaders have been grappling with how to attack the issue for years, but recently, a charge lead by North Carolina Senator Jim Davis, looks to be making headway. 

Sen. Davis first began his mission to address the state’s drug epidemic by sponsoring and advocating for the NC STOP Act. Davis’ legislation changed how pharmacies could prescribe narcotics and limited the number of pills being distributed at one time. According to Davis, since implementation, the legislation has been deemed effective in communities like Macon across the state. 

“The prescription limits of The STOP Act having already reduced the number of opioid prescriptions dispensed in our state,” said Senator Davis. “Mandating use of the Controlled Substance Reporting System will allow prescribers to track the source of prescriptions, the recipients of those prescriptions, and the number of prescriptions. The mandated use of the CSRS does not begin until 2020 so state government have time to upgrade the system to make it more user-friendly and to allow time for prescriber’s computer systems to be upgraded. Improvements were part of The HOPE Act and The Opioid Epidemic Response Act. Dealing with this epidemic will require future legislative remedies as well.”

The Opioid Epidemic Response Act can be considered the second phase of the state’s attack on lessening the tragic effects of opioids in the community.

“The Opioid Epidemic Response Act is the NC legislature’s bill dealing with the opioid epidemic,” said Davis. “It basically does three things:

  1. Eliminates the duplicate registration required of NC prescribers for buprenorphine. NC was one of the few if not the only state requiring state registration to be completed. The state registration was seen as an impediment to prescribers of buprenorphine, an important treatment therapy.
  2. Decriminalization of drug testing equipment used to detect contaminants in controlled substances
  3. Allowing state funds to be used in syringe exchange programs.”

Davis has supported the legislation and views it as a crucial next step in reaching communities across the state. 

“North Carolina is losing between 4 and 5 individuals per day to the opioid epidemic,” said Davis. “I was first made aware of the magnitude of the problem by former Waynesville Chief of Police, Bill Hollingsed, shortly after my first term in the NC Senate. He advised me of potential legislative efforts that were appropriate. Partnering with Attorney General Josh Stein’s office we have gotten signed into North Carolina law The STOP Act, The HOPE Act, and the Opioid Epidemic Response Act. Each of these laws enhance our ability to address the addiction problems facing our society.”

Sen. Davis was also mostly recently a sponsor of the Senate companion bill to the House’s “Death by Distribution Act.” The new legislation was signed into law on July 8, 2019. Under the new law, it would be easier to prosecute those distributors who sell drugs leading to overdose and death. Criminals could face up to 40 years in prison with the “death by distribution” law.

Despite the progress made on the state level addressing legislation to equip law enforcement with the means necessary to fight the drug epidemic as well as provide vital resources to the community to help with treatment, Davis said his work isn’t done. 

“We are always examining additional appropriate steps that can be made to address the opioid epidemic,” said Davis. 

Highlands-Cashiers Hospital to host ‘Crush the Crisis’ opioid take back day

On Saturday, September 7, Highlands-Cashiers Hospital will host “Crush the Crisis,” an opioid take back event. Law enforcement officers from the Highlands Police Department and Macon County Sheriff’s Office will be on site to assist with the collection and disposal of unused medications from 10 a.m. until noon.

Local law enforcement near the main hospital entrance will be collecting tablets, capsules and patches of Hydrocodone (Norco, Lortab, Vicodin), Oxycodone (Oxycontin, Percocet), Tramadol (Ultram), Codeine, Fentanyl (Duragesic), Morphine, Hydromorphone (Dilaudid) and Oxymorphone (Opana). Please note that needles, syringes, lancets or liquids will not be accepted. 

Highlands-Cashiers Hospital is participating as part of HCA Healthcare’s first national “Crush the Crisis” opioid take back day. More than 65 HCA Healthcare facilities across 14 states are uniting to collect unused or expired opioids for one day.

Opioid addiction is a growing crisis across the nation. The goal for ‘Crush the Crisis’ is to raise awareness of the dangers of opioid addiction and educate our community about the proper disposal of these medications. Opioid addiction can happen to anyone and we are providing this drop off opportunity confidentially and anonymously.

Article by Brittney Lofthouse

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