Gates County leaders tackle ongoing drug crisis

Published 4:10 pm Friday, September 1, 2023

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GATESVILLE – In an effort to attack the opioid crisis head-on through helping those addicted and educating others about the deadly impact of these painkillers, the Gates County Board of Commissioners will use funds specifically earmarked for those purposes.

Like all other counties across the state, Gates has received money from the CARE Grant. This program was established with funding from a state and national settlement with pharmaceutical firms in regards to the opioids crisis. More than $50 billion in settlement funds from pharmaceutical companies that made and sold opioid painkillers will be paid out over the next 18 years to state and local governments across the country. Gates County has received in excess of $100,000 from that settlement with more on the way.

At the April 19 commissioners meeting, Gates County Rescue and EMS Chief Stormy Butts presented a grant agreement for funds ($16,728) for a mobile response team that works to prevent deaths by drug overdose. Another grant proposal for $7,520 is for supplies shared by all first responders in the county needed as a “first defense” mechanism for victims of drug overdose.

These Linkages to Care grants, which are through local health departments, were both approved without objection at the commissioners most recent meeting on Aug. 16.

“We need to expend those dollars,” said Dr. Althea Riddick, chair of the county commissioners, at last week’s meeting. “We have an opiate issue in all counties, not just Gates County. Our Sheriff and his staff and our EMS have done a very good job using the medications they have [for overdose victims], but this issue is larger than that.

“That $100,000 should be engaged in attacking opiate addiction and overdoses,” she continued. “It’s very specific on how we can spend these funds. We also need to use this money for education to prevent opioid addiction, all the way down to our middle school. We need prevention and intervention.”

A committee, chaired by Commissioner Emily Truman, will be formed to oversee the opioid settlement funds coming into Gates County. Riddick said committee members are needed to represent all emergency responders, the school system, and faith-based organizations.

In another funding measure presented at last week’s board meeting, Gates County Manager Scott Sauer said there was $52,873 not allocated from the total funds the county received from the American Rescue Plan.

Sauer asked for a motion from the board to use that money to fund the next round of engineering and design services needed for the Merchant Commerce Center project.

That motion was approved by a 4-1 vote, with Truman in opposition.


About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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