BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — Brunswick County Sheriff John W. Ingram, V. and Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Ola Lewis, along with FED UP Coalition Policy Chair Don Flattery, and Amy Olson, Policy Advisor for the Brunswick County Opioid Addiction Task Force, submitted a letter to NC Gov. Roy Cooper requesting that he declare the opioid addiction crises in North Carolina a public health emergency.
“There’s no need for North Carolina to tarry or wait. I think time is of the essence. And the time is certainly now,” Lewis said.
The letter to Gov. Cooper describes the devastating impact that opioid addiction has had on both the state of NC and Brunswick County and adds while much has been done, there is still more to do.
“A declaration of a public health emergency, a step taken by a number of other states, is a critical measure to heighten public awareness of this issue, provide a framework for further actions, and potentially free up additional state resources to combat this grave crises,” the letter said.
The letter also urged the governor to act immediately for the good of the state and its citizens.
Flattery had a big role in this request. He actually just moved here from Virginia.
Flattery lost his 26-year-old son to an opioid overdose and became involved in the Virginia governor’s opioid task force. He said when he moved here he immediately saw the opioid problem in Brunswick County.
“Even though I was going to come to retire and rest. I just cannot abide having other families experience the same kind of unspeakable pain that my family has,” Flattery said.
That is why Flattery recommended the county make a request for the public health emergency making the community aware of the crisis. A recommendation Judge Lewis fully supports.
“This is a healthcare crisis. It is a healthcare epidemic. We need to remove the stigma. And we need to get our citizens the help that they need. And this is one way of ensuring that that will happen,” Lewis said.
Judge Lewis said North Carolina was also just awarded a $15.5 million federal grant to combat opioid addiction in the state.
“During emergencies, the state can apply and use resources that are previously appropriated for other uses that may not have been used to this specific emergency,” Flattery said. “That can be critical.”
Judge Lewis hopes some of that money is given to New Hanover and Brunswick County for treatment resources. Both Lewis and Flattery said they met with some legislators while hand delivering the letter in Raleigh Wednesday. They say the response so far has been positive.
Also on Wednesday, Gov. Roy Cooper was named one of five people that President Donald Trump is appointing to a panel to fight the growing opioid problem.
The next meeting for the Brunswick County task force is scheduled for May 19.