Fighting opioid epidemic

As part of the Town of Kernersville’s More Powerful Kernersville effort to combat the opioid epidemic and address its impacts on our community, Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill and Mayor Dawn Morgan met on Friday, August 30 to discuss current trends in the state and Forsyth County, and to view Kernersville’s pill drop box.
The pill drop box will be temporarily located in the Town Hall lobby, directly to the right of the front desk, for the next two months as the Town of Kernersville works to revamp the main lobby of the Kernersville Police Department (KPD).
The pill drop box will be temporarily available during business hours for the next two months. Once renovations are complete, the pill drop box will be moved back to the lobby of the KPD and will be located in a more prominent location, said Morgan.
According to Morgan, there were 60,000 children taken to the ER at any given time in the US last year because of an exposure to opioids.
“Fifty-three percent of people who misuse opioids get them from friends and family, and 57 percent of teens ages 12 – 17 who misuse opioids get them from friends and family,” she said, noting the importance of having the pill drop box available to Kernersville residents in order for parents to remove unused opioids from their homes.
Morgan added that once the pill drop box is filled, two officers take it to Charlotte, where the pills are incinerated.
O’Neill noted that addiction begins with a prescription or experimenting with other people’s prescriptions. Once someone is addicted to opioids and they run out, they often turn to something cheaper, like heroin, which he said is very cheap and readily available.
In response to the opioid crisis, Forsyth County is starting their second year of the District Attorney’s Treatment Alternative (DATA) Program, with a successful first year.
“We looked at the jail population and found that a lot of people there were heroin and opioid addicts,” O’Neill said.
Through research, O’Neill said he found that the pharmaceutical company Alkermes produces the drug vivitrol, which is a non-narcotic. He explained that it was developed for alcohol abuse; however, the company found that it can also be used for opioid addiction by blocking one’s ability to get high.
“That’s when I got the county commissioners to give us $250,000 to invest in DATA,” he said.
O’Neill explained that when someone is charged with a low-level crime, such as breaking into cars as opposed to crimes of violence, they go and talk to them to see if they have an addiction problem and then offer for them to take part in the program. He noted that the program is only offered to people with low level crimes and they must go through a screening process.
Once in the program, the person receives a shot of vivitrol once a month while they are in jail and then they are transported to Addiction Recovery Care Association (ARCA) for in-patient recovery so they can detox. While at ARCA, participants receive education, counseling and support. After being with ARCA, O’Neill said participants transitions to Insight, an outpatient program where they are monitored to help with relapse and change the way they think and behave. They are also assigned with a parole officer and continue getting a shot of vivitrol each month and are drug tested up to five times a week.
“If they successfully complete the program, which takes 18 months to two years, all charges are dropped,” he said.
O’Neill said they currently have 18 participants in the program.
“The success rate has been beyond what we ever imagined. All participants have a job, there are no new crimes, and they have tested clean,” he said, adding that one of the participants, who is now drug free, is going on to be a doctor. “If you get these people and put them on the road to recovery, you stop the revolving door to jail and the crime rate goes down.”
O’Neill said there is nothing like this program anywhere; however, the legislature took notice and is now trying to replicate it into other places around the state.
Morgan added, referencing getting rid of prescription drugs from one’s home, “It’s important to have access to a pill drop box, and it’s a very simple thing everyone can do or tell someone about it.”
According to the Kernersville Fire Rescue Department, just this year alone, they have responded to 58 overdoses.
Morgan urges the community to share information about the pill drop box and its temporary location.
“If you’re not using the pills, get rid of them,” she stated.
Town Hall is located at 728 E. Mountain Street. The pill drop box is available Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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