Leaders: Charlotte-Mecklenburg needs more resources to fight opiate abuse

A group of local leaders told U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson on Wednesday they need more resources to fight a growing heroin and prescription drug abuse problem in the Charlotte region.

Hudson brought together people from Charlotte-Mecklenburg police, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and local government to help combat a problem he says a large segment of the community is unaware of.

“Over 20,000 Americans die a year from opioid prescription overdoses and this is a preventable problem but also a growing crisis in the country,” Hudson said. “I want to raise the awareness but I also want to talk about some of the things from the federal government that I can be doing to better coordinate with local folks that are here on the front lines.”

Mayor Dan Clodfelter told Hudson that Charlotte leaders are learning “what’s happening in Charlotte is not an isolated incident.” Clodfelter said other mayors he’s conferred with have talked about heroin problems cropping up almost overnight.

Capt. Coerte Voorhees, who heads CMPD’s vice unit, said police were alerted to a rise in heroin use a few years ago when they noticed an increase in property crime in South Charlotte.

“Some of the offenders were young people – very young people,” he said. He said that at one point, nearly 20 percent of people arrested for heroin offenses had lengthy property crime backgrounds.

Fred Brason II, executive director at Project Lazarus, a community-based opioid overdose prevention program in Moravian Falls, said the state needs to do a better job of attacking prescription opiate and heroin abuse from all angles.

“You’ve got prevention, intervention and treatment,” Brason said. “If you don’t treat all three of those alike, then we’re missing it. North Carolina has definitely been in the lead on this issue, but it took us a while because everybody’s silent.”

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Twitter: @CleveWootson