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State Leaders Look To Further Combat The Opioid Epidemic In NC

The North Carolina General Assembly took further action to combat the opioid epidemic, passing SB 616-Heroin and Opioid Prevent and Enforcement Act (HOPE Act). Viewed as a follow up of the STOP ACT passed last year, the HOPE Act seeks to give law enforcement the necessary tools to investigate and crack down on the flow of prescription opioids into the illegal drug market, as well as to provide resources for treatment and harm reduction.

According to an analysis by the North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research, the HOPE Act aims to provide resources and tools in three areas: 1) “community investment in treatment and harm reduction, 2) enhancement of investigative support and resources, and; 3) clarification and expansion of prosecutorial powers.”

Community Investment In Treatment and Harm Reduction (recurring funds for 2019-2020)

  • Allocates $10 million to be used “to increase the availability of community-based treatment and recovery services for substance use disorders”;
  • Allocates $1 million for the State to purchase and distribute to law enforcement, naloxone, a medication “designed to rapidly reverse opioid overdose” that “can very quickly restore normal respiration to a person whose breathing has slowed or stopped as a result of overdosing with heroin or prescription opioid pain medications,” and;
  • Allocates $160,000 to fund Operation Medical Drop, a project that helps the public to safely dispose of unused or unwanted or expired medications.

 Enhancement of Investigative Support and Resources

  • Creates a new State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) agent position to “enhance drug investigations throughout the state.”
  • “Gives trained investigators appropriate accesses to prescription data and records to improve investigations,” according to the North Carolina Department of Justice.
  • Improves and strengthens the North Carolina Substance Reporting System, a “statewide reporting system designed to help identify people who abuse and misuse prescription drugs.”

Clarification and Expansion of Prosecutorial Powers

  • Enhances the penalty for healthcare workers that steal or dilute or substitute a patient’s prescription drugs;
  • Clarifies that “fentanyl trafficking is covered by our drug trafficking statutes.” Fentanyl is a powerful drug that is used in some cases “to treat breakthrough cancer pain or end of life discomfort.” Drugs that are “laced” with fentanyl have contributed to the high instances of overdose deaths.

Rep. Greg Murphy (R-Pitt) and Rep. Craig Horn (R-Union) led the effort to pass the bill in the House. Sen. Jim Davis (R-Macon) and Sen Tom McInnis (R-Richmond) led the effort to pass the bill in the Senate. The bill passed unanimously in the Senate and passed the House by a vote of 87-25. Some House members feared that the bill could be a violation of privacy. It has now been sent to Governor Roy Cooper, with the expectation that he will sign it into law.

If you wish to learn more about the Opioid epidemic, our Fall 2017 magazine feature story delves into the stunning stats that show how widespread this issue is in North Carolina, as well as, a personal story of one North Carolina family’s struggle with addiction.


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