According to the state Department of Health and Human Services, overdose deaths in the state increased by 22% in 2021, to more than 4,000. For 2022, data from the North Carolina Office of the Chief Medical Examiner showed a 7% increase in suspected overdose deaths.
The startling numbers shows that the opioid crisis is hitting the state hard. Local state leaders are hoping to take steps in providing treatment for opioid addiction, with one initiative making clinics accessible for those who need it the most.
A new mobile clinic, led by Dr. Robyn Jordan, an assistant professor of psychiatry in the UNC School of Medicine and addiction medicine specialist, is helping communities in Robeson County get treatment and support services for their substance use disorder.
“We need to be doing more to ensure that folks struggling with addiction get the treatment that they need to get healthy,” Attorney General Stein stated during his visit to the Lumberton mobile clinic. “There are not enough doctors, pharmacies, specialized treatment locations — there’s simply not enough places for people to turn to, to get the healthcare that they need. That is why I’m incredibly excited to see this ATLAS mobile clinic that the UNC School of Medicine is bringing to Robeson County.”
Dr. Jordan’s Addiction Treatment: Linking Access & Services mobile clinic is one of many that are delivering addiction treatment, including medications for opioid use disorder, to those in need.
“There are creative solutions being identified and deployed all across the state,” Stein stated. “This is one example of that.”
In 2021, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services awarded $4.4 million to three mental health organizations to operate a total of 15 mobile units.
The mobile units serve several eastern counties, including Bladen and Columbus, Robeson, Scotland and several other counties.
“Our goal here is really for every person to have equal access to health care in behavioral health or physical health,” Christie Edwards, vice president of innovative development and member solution at Trillium, told the Border Belt Independent.
The state is also working to expand its mobile crisis care, treatment programs and other behavioral services. Earlier this year, the state launched the 988 Suicide Hotline, where people can call or text 988 to reach trained crisis counselors 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
According to WRAL, since its launch in July, the call center reported an 85% increase in callers referencing substance abuse as their reason for calling.
“It’s really important we address the underlying causes that lead some people to a life of addiction because if we can, we can save more lives,” North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein stated.