Wilmington City Council gets update on opioid overdose program, changes billboard ordinance

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — On Tuesday the opioid overdose Quick Response Team (QRT) of Coastal Horizons gave Wilmington City Council an update on a program that’s been underway for more than two years. It’s a program they say has been a success.

The QRT began in July 2018 as a pilot program, and was awarded a grant of $500,000.

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Their goal is to engage overdose survivors and connect them to treatment and recovery resources.

Since its inception, the team connected 330 overdose survivors to treatment. There have been only ten subsequent overdoses after someone was connected to treatment, and four fatal overdoses.

Despite the program’s success, Coastal Horizons Clinical Director Kenny House says there is more work to be done.

“From all the overdose survivors that we’ve been able to connect to treatment, we also know that there are a lot of overdose survivors who are not connecting to treatment, who we’re not even reaching them,” House said. “There is always more to do in this arena. It’s not just having treatment available, it’s also having a strategy for a community to prevent those problems from even developing.”

The team says they have also seen people in the community overdosing on drugs other than opioids which also needs attention. House says they have also seen more people struggling since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and there are resources you can access if you are in need.

You can call 910-622-1389 or click here to join a support group. They are offering remote group meetings via Zoom.

Also on Tuesday night, council voted to modify an ordinance to relocate gateway signs or billboards they say are cluttering the city.

One such example is the billboard which recently made headlines for displaying the message “Wilmington for Trump 2020.” It is visible when entering the city via the Isabel Holmes Bridge.

The buyer offered to move it if they would be allowed to make it a two sided billboard and convert it to a digital display. This would not be permitted under a city ordinance.

Despite opposition by city staff, council voted to modify the ordinance to incentivize this billboard and others to be moved.

“We negotiated with the sign companies back in 2008 to remove a lot of the gateway signs throughout the city, but there were four or five smaller companies that did not have that same opportunity,” said Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo. “We thought it was fair, it was a compromise that we had to work out to get those signs out of our gateway and something that our citizens have asked us to do.”

There is no word yet when that particular billboard could be moved to a new location.

City council also got an update on the Wilmington Rail Trail Project.

It’s a project to revitalize the unused railroad space in the north side neighborhood of downtown Wilmington and transform it to a community bike and pedestrian trail.

The Rail Trail is located along the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad corridor between North 3rd Street and McRae Street and between Campbell and Brunswick streets.

Mayor Saffo reacted to the update.

“It seems like the community has really embraced this plan, we’ve seen plans like this happen in other parts of the country,” Saffo said. “One of the ones that’s highlighted always is The High Line in New York City where they took an old railway and converted it into a kind of pedestrian type of plaza or mall, I hope that we can do that.”

Council also voted to spend $663,925 to purchase 25 police vehicles for the Wilmington Police Department.

Click here to watch the full meeting.