Commissioners Approve Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders Strategy

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, North Carolina – During Tuesday’s meeting, the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners unanimously adopted the county’s first mental health and substance use disorder strategic plan. This strategic plan will help guide the county’s funding priorities and decisions for years to come, using National Opioid Settlement money and the county’s fund for mental health and substance use disorders. .

“So many lives in our community have been impacted, altered or lost because resources were not readily available to address mental health and addictions issues,” said New Hanover County Commissioner Jonathan Barfield, Jr. ., who played a key role in developing the strategy. “Today is a monumental day for our county as this plan will help us move forward the strategic direction of what we fund and how we fund it, so that we focus on the best outcomes and that we can make meaningful progress in solving these problems and helping those who need it most.”

Since 2018, New Hanover County has prioritized the prevention and reduction of opioid abuse as a key strategic goal. While there have been initial improvements across the community, there have also been significant losses since the pandemic began. Research shows that one of the main drivers of substance use disorders is mental health and wellbeing. In the first seven months of 2022, New Hanover County experienced 15 suicide deaths, 36 opioid-related deaths, and a total of 299 people who overdosed. These numbers are just a small piece of a larger data set that shows the need for a holistic approach to tackling substance use disorders while also focusing on mental health.

To help develop this plan, a stakeholder group comprised of mental health and substance use disorder service providers in New Hanover County, community partners, law enforcement officials and from the local court system, Commissioners Barfield and Zapple, and staff from several county departments were trained. This group met eight times over a five-month period, reviewing data and trends collected by multiple agencies, while listening to consumers of mental health and addictions services share their experiences before, during and after treatment. The group also consulted with representatives of the North Carolina County Commissioners Association and North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kody Kinsley to develop a comprehensive understanding of the needs, gaps and opportunities.

“What we learned through this process was really eye-opening and really drove home how important it was for us to have this strategy in place,” said New Hanover County Commissioner Rob Zapple. “It is a problem that does not discriminate. It touched lives in all demographics of our community. We strongly believe that this strategy can help inform our decisions about the funding available to us in the years to come, so that we can make it easier for people to access help during a very difficult time and ensure that the right services are right here in our community. ”

The county’s strategy focuses on providing comprehensive services to people before, during and after seeking help for a mental health or addiction disorder. This includes components aimed at education and awareness, access to services and treatment, and support for recovery and general well-being. Specific metrics for each category have been established to help track progress and success.

Funding for this comprehensive strategy will come from two sources: the county’s $50 million Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders Fund and the Opioid Settlement Funds which will bring in approximately $18.4 million to the county. county over the next 18 years.

Initial recommendations on how to spend opioid settlement funds and mental health and substance use disorder funds, based on the adopted strategy, will be researched and discussed. further in the coming months. The Council of Commissioners will be responsible for voting and approving any final funding decisions, which will form part of the annual budget process each year.

For a complete overview of the Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders Strategy, Click here.

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