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Local programs fight opioid epidemic

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Chief of Police Tom Bashore displays drug paraphernalia Tueday at the Nashville Police Department in Nashville.

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By AMELIA HARPER
Staff Writer

Thursday, August 31, 2017

While the Twin Counties clearly has a problem with opioid abuse, solutions to the crisis abound here as well.

Nash County, especially, is assuming a leadership role in the state as a model for ways a community can fight the opioid crisis.

“We have got to bring everyone on board with this issue. We are losing more people to opioids than we are losing to these wars. We are losing more people to opioids than we are to car wrecks and to gun violence,” Nash County Sheriff Keith Stone said. “Nash County is doing more about opioids than any other county in the nation that I know of.”

Stone especially points to the work of Nashville Police Chief Tom Bashore.

“We have the Nashville Police Department that has got this wonderful Hope Initiative. Chief Bashore has not got that many resources over there, but that program is one of the few in America of its kind,” Stone said.

William Hill, director of Nash County Human Services, agrees.

”The chief of police here has done more with this issue than any other police department in the state. This is a model department for dealing with this heroin addiction issue,” Hill said.

Bashore has become something of a celebrity for his innovative approach to the opioid crisis. He began the Hope Initiative in February 2016 and has seen phenomenal success in helping people with opioid use disorder find their path to recovery. Since then, he has also gained nationwide attention for his work, most recently appearing on CNN.

“The Hope Initiative is a program that allows individuals to come to the department voluntarily and seek treatment,” Bashore told the Telegram. “If they have drugs or paraphernalia on them at the time, they can turn those over. No charges are filed. No questions are asked. That’s kind of an amnesty up front.”

Fewer than 10 people have actually turned in drugs so far.

“What I am learning is that most people have stuff, but they use it before they come in for treatment. Sort of one last hurrah,” Bashore said.

In the beginning, no one showed up for help, fearing a trap.

“It took eight days for the first person to walk into the police department for this,” Bashore said. “It’s kind of counter-intuitive for someone to say ‘So these guys arrest me all the time, but let me go down and see if this is real.’ But there is none of that normal police interaction when we are working with someone dealing with addiction. From that initial person, the word started getting around that this isn’t a trick and we really are here to help.”

More than 190 people have sought treatment through the Hope Initiative in the 18 months since its inception. Of those 190 people who have come though the Hope Initiative, fewer than 20 have returned to use, as far as Bashore knows.

Though the program is based in Nashville, Bashore said the Hope Initiative serves people no matter where they live. He regularly sees people come through the program from Edgecombe, Wilson and even Wake counties. 

Bashore takes a very personal approach to the problem. When addicts come in, Bashore does an initial intake with them to determine whether or not they need to go through detox. If so, Bashore takes them to the emergency department, where they are checked out medically.

About 99 percent of the patients that are sent out head to Coastal Plain Hospital on the campus of Nash UNC Health Care. If Coastal Plain is full, patients are sent to other facilities in nearby counties. After the patient is admitted to Coastal Plain, Bashore said that he and Amanda Flory, transitional care social worker at Coastal Plain Hospital and coordinator of the Coalition for Addiction Recovery and Education (CARE) of Nash County, sit down with the patient and go over what the long-term plan will be.

The CARE initiative started in Nash County soon after the Hope Initiative began to see fruit. This coalition works with the Hope Initiative and The Anchor Holds Inc., an organization founded by Heather Moore, the mother of two sons who are battling opioid use disorders. Flory’s position is partially funded by Nash County. However, the work of CARE involves more than just crisis recovery. The program also focsues on community outreach and education, a syringe exchange program and the development of a Recovery Community Center for which the group is seeking funding.

Edgecombe County also has been inspired by the work of the Hope Initiative to begin the Coordinated Opiate Recovery Effort (CORE) initiative, which was announced earlier this year by the Edgecombe County Sheriff’s Office. This program operates in conjunction with the Edgecombe County Health Department, Eastpointe, Edgecombe County Rescue Squad, Easter Seals, Integrated Family Services, Starting Point, Wilson Professional Services, local health providers, local stakeholders and other local law enforcement.

The pieces are falling in place and the hard work is beginning. There are several other organizations in the Twin Counties that are offering a helping hand to people sufferng with opioid use disorder. For those who need help in the Twin Counties, help is available.

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