AG visits Coastal Horizons to discuss how opioid settlement funds will be used in the Cape Fear

North Carolina is set to receive $750-million from the opioid settlement with three major pharmaceutical companies. State Attorney General Josh Stein visited Wilmington on Wednesday morning to talk about how the funds will be used in the Cape Fear area.
(Photo: Sydney Bouchelle/WWAY)

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — North Carolina is set to receive $750-million from the opioid settlement with three major pharmaceutical companies. State Attorney General Josh Stein visited Wilmington on Wednesday morning to talk about how the funds will be used in the Cape Fear area.

New Hanover will see $19.5-million from the settlement, Brunswick will see $13.5-million, and Bladen and Columbus combined will get an additional $10-million. The counties could see more because Stein says negotiations are still going on with other defendants.

During his visit on Wednesday, Stein toured Coastal Horizons in Wilmington with several elected leaders from Wilmington, New Hanover, and Brunswick Counties. At Coastal Horizons, the Medication-Assisted Treatment (also known as MAT) is used to help people through recovery. Stein and Coastal Horizons President and CEO Margaret Stargell referred to this method as the gold standard of treatment.

“Tragically, we are at the most fatal moment of the deadliest drug epidemic in American history,” Stein said.

The attorney general said North Carolina experienced its deadliest year in history in 2020 and believes 2021 was even worse, emphasizing the millions coming to the state to combat the opioid epidemic must be spent wisely. It must be spent on prevention, treatment, recovery, or harm reduction services. Stein says Coastal Horizons checks off all of those boxes and is far ahead of the curve of comprehensiveness in attacking the opioid crisis. He hopes to see places like it get continued support from local governments.

“Every day 600 people come here for medication that helps them live their lives free of addiction. They can go to work, they can provide for their families, they can be with their families,” Stein said. “What we need are more facilities like this that put the patient at the center of their mission.”

Coastal Horizons Vice President of Clinical Services Kenny House says Coastal has seen the number of patients triple in the last three years. In some cases, people are coming from out of town seeking treatment at the center. The increase in patients has led to a space issue. New Hanover County Commissioner Rob Zapple noticed the small space in the center allotted for so many patients and asked why. President and CEO Margaret Stargell said funding was an issue and asked the commissioners to remember that when they came to the county seeking more funds.

Stargell also expressed disappointment in the commissioners’ decision not to develop a larger Coastal Horizons treatment facility. She says their decision was made because the Medication-Assisted Treatment is an option in their facility. Instead, the commissioners chose The Healing Place, a treatment center out of Kentucky.

“I wish it the best of success, but I assure you, as I said, we have been doing this for a number of years. Without every treatment option available, it will not succeed,” Stargell told the commissioners.

After hearing Stargell’s comments and Stein’s claim that Medication-Assisted Treatment was the gold standard, New Hanover County Commissioner Jonathan Barfield, Jr. wonders what the county is getting out of the peer-based treatment center at The Healing Place. He says he hopes the county is not making the wrong investment and is providing what’s needed in the community.

“You follow the methodologies that are proven to be effective. As our attorney general said today, places like Coastal Horizons have a proven track record of helping folks and saving lives. Again, if folks are coming here for this type of service and we’re building something that doesn’t offer that, how effective is it going to be?” Barfield said. “I’m hoping that we can help folks and it can be as effective as possible. I’m hoping that we don’t see what we’re hearing that may be the outcome.”

The first round of the funds is set to make it to the local level by the end of the month. As the settlement dollars come in, Barfield hopes they can go toward helping people as opposed to funding new initiatives. For example, he hopes to address the space issue at Coastal Horizons.

As for people who are struggling with addiction, he says there is hope.

“It may seem like there’s no way out, but there is a way out and there are people here that are willing to help and want to help,” Barfield said. “There are organizations that will provide the treatment that will help you become successful. Just know that we care.”

Once the funds reach the local level, people will be able to track how they are spent and if the result of the spending was positive in an online portal. For more information on this, visit here.

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