Hathaway spoke to Xpress about having an impact on the community’s health care, how the opioid epidemic affected him as a cardiologist and his excitement over becoming a grandparent.
According to figures shared with the county Board of Commissioners by Dr. Shuchin Shukla, a physician and opioid crisis educator with the Mountain Area Health Education Center, Buncombe’s rate of overdose deaths has exceeded the statewide average since at least 2016. In 2021, the county suffered 45.2 deaths per 100,000 residents, compared with 35.8 deaths per 100,000 for North Carolina as a whole.
Buncombe behavioral health manager Victoria Reichard noted that the county has received roughly $2 million of a more than $16 million lawsuit settlement, negotiated with pharmaceutical companies over their role in the opioid epidemic, this fiscal year. Of those funds, a county team has recommended about $518,000 in immediate spending.
Buncombe County experienced a 147% increase in overdose deaths between 2015 and 2017, the most recent period for which data is available from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. According to Emergency Services, Buncombe averages six-to-eight deaths monthly from probable overdoses.
During a June 1 meeting, the county Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to approve a memorandum of agreement regarding the settlement of its litigation against pharmaceutical companies for their role in the opioid crisis.
If the vote takes place as planned, it would mark the second consecutive year in which the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners approved the budget immediately after the public hearing. Last year, Chair Brownie Newman noted that the board has historically allowed some time between the hearing and the vote to consider resident input.
“If the Haywood County leaders truly cared about people, they would request funds for mental health resources to help those suffering from substance abuse issues rather than criminalizing them.”
According to the Opportunity Insights Economic Tracker, the employment rate among Buncombe County workers making $27,000 or less per year was 30.2% lower in mid-September than at the start of 2020. By comparison, jobs making over $60,000 annually were down just 3.4% on the year.
COVID-19 stalled the expansion of medication assisted treatment into NC’s prisons, but the demand for it is just as high — if not increasing.
David Joy’s latest novel, “When These Mountains Burn,” offers an unflinching look at addiction, family ties and loss. The book will be published Tuesday, Aug. 18.
The budget allocation approved during the meeting was double the $250,000 request listed on the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners agenda, which was published on March 11. Of the new amount, $350,000 will go to public safety, with an additional $75,000 spent on both human services and general government.
As outlined in a presentation available before the meeting, Buncombe’s 26 county-owned buildings have an average age of nearly 50 years, with total maintenance costs running over $789,000 in each of the past two fiscal cycles. The county hopes to hire an outside firm to evaluate those buildings against Buncombe’s needs.
Antony Chiang, the new leader of the $1.5 billion foundation resulting from the sale of Mission Health to HCA Healthcare, shared details on the nonprofit’s plans to support partner organizations with grant writing and engaged an audience of roughly 290 people at the Mission Health/A-B Tech Conference Center around its strategic priorities.
The Buncombe County Health and Human Services Department will offer syringe services at its 40 Coxe Ave. clinic beginning in July or August, joining the Needle Exchange Program of Asheville and the Steady Collective in providing supplies and education to reduce the harms associated with injection drug use.
Harm-reduction efforts and addiction treatment are two of the main strategies public health agencies are using to address the crisis. Buncombe County, Haywood County and the Mountain Area Health Education Center are deploying over $660,000 in federal funds as part of that effort.
Some community members who died in 2018 lived long and respected lives. Others met sudden ends by way of traffic accidents or illnesses, while some had their lives cut short by violence. Many died as a result of overdosing on opioid drugs. We mark some of those passings in our list of deaths that hit our community especially hard.