BY LAURA DOUGLASS
Twenty-two Moore County residents died from an unintentional opioid-related drug overdose in 2020. There were also more than 60 opioid-related emergency room visits, according to state health department records.
Earlier this year, a new recovery resource and support hub quietly opened in Carthage to serve families and individuals impacted by drug addiction. The Moore ReCreations Community Recovery Center hosted an open house on Saturday, Sept. 25, coinciding with Drug Free Moore County’s annual 5K Run/Walk for Recovery event.
“We call the new facility in Carthage Moore ReCreations because we are helping people to re-create themselves,” said Drug Free Moore County’s Executive Director, Karen Wicker.
Statistically speaking, Moore County is on the average to high end of the spectrum when it comes to opioid-related overdoses when compared to other counties. In 2019, the state launched the Opioid Action Plan 2.0 that focuses on three areas to address the opioid crisis: prevention, reducing harm and connecting to care.
Moore ReCreations serves all three by providing resources, including N.C. certified peer support specialists to work one-on-one with those seeking recovery from substance use, family support and renewal solutions. This includes a harm reduction program and a medicated assisted treatment program in conjunction with Integrated Pain Solutions. The facility also houses Moore PreTrial Services.
“In the last few years, there has been a lot more focus on recovery and helping people to achieve recovery. Either you prevent the disease or you work on the disease, that is our whole approach,” said Wicker.
Carthage is an ideal location, she added, because it is the county seat and well-positioned to serve both northern and southern Moore.
Matt Garner, public information officer for the Moore County Health Department, noted that mental health and substance use disorders affect all communities across the nation.
Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields urged county leaders recently to extend their support to Tides-Sandhills, a newly proposed opioid treatment center that would specifically serve pregnant women and new mothers.
“The problems we are having countywide, it is a problem. We need to let the community be aware of what is going on and that these overdose deaths affect everyone,” Fields said. “We are doing the best we can with the resources we have — and the more resources we have is a plus.”
The Tides is a Wilmington-based, comprehensive opioid use disorder treatment program for women developed by Dr. William Johnstone.
Johnstone is an ob/gyn who formerly worked with Pinehurst Surgical for a number of years before he was recruited to academic medicine. He became interested in drug addiction and recovery efforts after treating a young mother who died of a stroke, the result of an infection from a contaminated needle.
“That left a lasting impression. Addiction is a disease,” Johnstone told the county commissioners during a presentation recently.
A longtime resident of Moore County, Johnstone recently presented to commissioners a conceptual plan for Tides-Sandhills as a new facility that would serve local women battling opioid disorder while pregnant, anticipating pregnancy or postpartum. The facility would be designed in the UNC Horizons addiction center model, which he also used to develop The Tides in Wilmington.
Johnstone said the majority of his clients come from lower economic backgrounds. The women have typically grown up with some sort of trauma, whether that is physical, emotional, sexual abuse, or drug use.
“And then they become the next generation. What we do is break that cycle,” he said. “By putting these women into a safe home where they can raise their child and not feel threatened. We keep them until they are ready and when they come out of the program, they have the tools to go out on the street and find a job, find a place to live, and not go back to the way they were living before.”
The primary mission of Tides is to keep mother and child together. Since 2019, Johnstone said they have been successful 95 percent of the time.
He anticipated start-up costs to develop a locally based facility would run $350,000 and increase gradually as the number of clients increased. The New Hanover facility operates on approximately $500,000 annually through direct funding from the county and grants.
Johnstone said the cost is offset by other expenses that Moore County would incur otherwise in dealing with these individuals, such as foster care and hospital stays for mother and child.
County Chairman Frank Quis said he was interested in learning more but expressed reservations about Moore County footing the entire bill for a facility that would likely serve women from surrounding counties as well.
Johnstone said neighboring counties could be approached to pay a portion of expenses, in recognition of the number of clients from an area served.
Fields said a facility like Tides-Sandhills would be “of great, great, help,” and encouraged county officials to consider the overall tax savings.
Contact Laura Douglass at (910) 693-2474 or email firstname.lastname@example.org