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Multiple state officials make announcements in advancements for battle against opioid abuse

It’s been a big day for North Carolina’s battle in an opioid crisis that is plaguing the nation.

State Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Martin announced that he accepted an invitation to join the Regional Judicial Opioid Initiative (RJOI), which is a working group of regional state court officials that was created to develop multi-state solutions and best practices for addressing the opioid epidemic.

“Rising opioid addiction is a grave issue that has serious implications for our criminal justice system,” Martin said. “I look forward to working with my colleagues in other states to develop comprehensive judicial solutions as we assist our states in efforts to prevent and combat addiction.”

Gov. Roy Cooper, Attorney General Josh Stein and State Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen also announced today that North Carolina will receive a $31 million federal grant to fight the opioid crisis.

“We have got to do more to prevent people from becoming addicted, treat people who are addicted and enforce our laws aggressively against the drug traffickers who are breeding misery and death in our state,” Stein said.

Both announcements come on the heels of a $1 million budget provision that would strip education funding from Democratic districts to fight the opioid crisis in Republican districts.

Data shows that opioid addiction doesn’t just affect counties in Republican districts — a report released earlier this week shows that in 2015, there were more than 1,100 opioid-related deaths across the state, a 73 percent increase from 2005. The report also outlines county-by-county figures.

According to a news release from the Administrative Office of the Courts, prescription opioids were responsible for about half of opioid-related deaths last year.

“Among other negative effects, opioid addiction can serve as a gateway to heroin use, as demonstrated by North Carolina’s 884% increase in heroin-related deaths since 2010,” the release states.

In his letter accepting the invitation to join RJOI, Martin said the most heartbreaking effect of the opioid crisis in North Carolina is on the state’s children, “since parental addiction inevitably leads to increased abuse and neglect.”

“Our communities have too much at stake to remain passive in the face of this growing threat,” he states in the letter. “The fight against opioid abuse is one that we cannot lose.”

Martin recently served as co-chair of the Governor’s Task Force on Mental Health and Substance Use to develop recommendations in North Carolina for improving the lives of youth and adults with mental illness and substance use disorders, and their families.

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