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County distributes opioids funds

ASHEBORO — With $1.2 million on hand to spend from opioid settlement funds, the Randolph County Board of Commissioners on July 10 appropriated $900,000 for six of eight programs.


It’s the first in an 18-year process to abate the impacts of opioid use in the county. The program was presented to the commissioners by Jennifer Layton, assistant Public Health director, and Leia Gearhart, NC Association of County Commissioners representative.

The two gave a lengthy presentation not only of the opioid problem in the county but how the process works according to the NC Memorandum of Agreement as well as funding, monitoring and convening of the recommended eight organizations proposed for carrying out the various strategies.

Layton said there were 95 deaths from overdoses in 2021, up from 46 in 2018. During 2022, Randolph County ranked sixth in the state for the rate of overdose deaths.


Expenditure of the settlement funds, which are coming down from a national court action against pharmaceutical companies and distributors, is based on prevention, harm reduction and connecting clients with care.

Layton and Gearhart said the programs presented for the commissioners to consider are evidence-based strategies.


Commission Chair Darrell Frye, noting that there were only eight organizations considered for the program, said, “It seems to be restrictive.” Gearhart said there were 13 applications initially but five of the applicants didn’t qualify.


When asked about providing so much money to the organizations, some of which aren’t audited, Gearhart said each organization is reimbursed for money it spends and those expenses must be approved.

Each of the proposed organizations was to receive $50,000 for one year with the option to renew for two more years, for a total of $150,000. Those organizations would be monitored and receive annual assessments of their progress.

The organizations proposed for funding were considered separately by resolution. Here’s a breakdown for each case:

Juvenile Day Reporting Center

The first was the Randolph County Juvenile Day Reporting Center, which would implement early intervention programs for youth ages 10-17 who have been identified as potentially having an opioid use disorder or co-occurring substance abuse disorder. The program will use evidence-based curriculum to address the diagnosis as well as enhance supportive family relationships.

The commissioners voted unanimously to approve the Juvenile Day Reporting Center.

County Detention Center

The second organization was the Randolph County Detention Center, which will provide naloxone to incarcerated persons who screened positive for opioid use disorder upon release. At reentry, recipients of naloxone will receive education on identifying opioid overdose and naloxone use for overdose reversal regardless of participation in the Detention Center MAT program. 

The commissioners again voted unanimously for the Detention Center.


Community Hope Alliance

The Community Hope Alliance proved to be a source of concern for the commissioners. The nonprofit agency would provide naloxone with a focus on geographic areas with concentrations of opioid overdose. It is also a registered syringe service program.

The resolution passed but with “no” votes from Frye and Kenny Kidd.


Sheriff’s Office

The Randolph County Sheriff’s Office was proposed for another strategy — medication-assisted treatment, or MAT. It would provide treatment to incarcerated persons in the Detention Center who screen positive for opioid use disorder. Upon reentry, formerly incarcerated persons would be referred to a licensed substance use and behavioral health partners.


The proposal was passed unanimously by the commissioners.


Community Health Alliance

The Community Health Alliance was proposed as a provider of syringes to persons with opioid use disorder. The agency’s duties would include proper disposal of syringes and providing reduction supplies and education as well as referrals to behavioral health services.

Frye, Kidd and Maxton McDowell all voiced concerns about providing syringes to those with opioid issues. David Allen and Hope Haywood, while expressing concerns, said they felt the program could help bring those with opioid use disorders closer to receiving help.


The resolution failed by a 3-2 vote along the lines expressed by the commissioners.

Department of Social Services

The Randolph County Department of Social Services was proposed as a provider of intensive case management to families engaged with Child Protective Services as a result of opioid use disorder and co-occurring substance use disorders. Included would be support of parents engaged in recovery services as well as ensuring services to increase retention in recovery programs. 


The Department of Social Services resolution passed unanimously.


Keaton’s Place

A proposal for Keaton’s Place to serve as a recovery resource center for individuals with opioid use disorder as well as educational and supportive programs for people in recovery had an interesting twist. The commissioners agreed to allow McDowell to recuse himself since he is involved with Keaton’s Place. In fact, he advocated for the proposal.

With just four commissioners voting, the result was a 2-2 tie, with Frye and Kidd casting “no” votes. That meant the resolution failed, lacking a majority vote.

Morse Clinic

Morse Clinic, a for-profit, licensed opioid treatment agency, was proposed to support uninsured or underinsured clients by assisting in cost of daily medication, doctors’ visits, clinical assessment, lab work, on-going counseling, peer support services, case management and harm reduction services.


The vote on the Morse Clinic resolution passed by a 3-2 vote, with Kidd and Frye voting against.


Following the meeting, Kidd explained his opposition to four of the measures, particularly Keaton’s Place and Community Health Alliance. The harm reduction policy, which includes providing syringes, was at the base of his opposition.


“Keaton’s Place is an umbrella organization for harm reduction,” he said, including referring people to the Community Health Alliance, which sanctions harm reduction practices. “I want people in the community to have life and have it more abundantly, with freedom and deliverance from their addiction. I’m not in favor of enabling them in addiction.”

He likened providing syringes to opioid users as aiding and abetting felonies.