“We’ve got an epidemic within a pandemic,” says Kevin Mahoney with the Mountain Area Health Education Center. Social distancing, job losses and drug contamination associated with COVID-19 have all complicated local efforts to manage the impacts of opioid use.
On March 1, city spokesperson Ashley Traynum-Carson said in a press release the needle exchange would now be considered a medical clinic after it formalized a commitment to have a medical professional on-site during operation. The process by which Asheville arrived at its new position, however, remains unclear.
“When the agreed-upon use is changed or deviated from, and that change impacts the neighborhood negatively, the city and greater community need to stand up and hold those in charge accountable.”
“We must recognize that as long as we prioritize more hotels, more restaurants, more new construction (none of which is wholly bad), we must also acknowledge the consequences of those priorities — the displacement of people on the margins — and find ways to sustainably address them.”
“Firestorm treats with humanity those patrons who are respectful, including the homeless looking for a safe place to stay for a couple hours.”
“I call foul on the city for engaging in this aggressive, underhanded attempt to further gentrify West Asheville.”
Firestorm Books & Coffee and The Steady Collective announced that they had formally appealed their notices of violation on Sept. 17. The appeals will likely be considered at the next meeting of the city’s Board of Adjustment, which takes place on Monday, Oct. 22. If the board rejects the appeals, the groups face civil penalties of $100 for every day they remain out of zoning compliance.
They have been overwhelmingly supportive and interested in searching for solutions and commonalities, participating in several meetings between the leaders of the nonprofits and themselves in the weeks leading up to the Trinity Church community meeting.
Some say The Steady Collective, Firestorm Books and Coffee, Kairos West Community Center and 12 Baskets Café have reduced the area’s safety by offering services to drug users and homeless clients. The Asheville Police Department has claimed that the number of complaints filed in the neighborhood — including drug use, trespassing and syringes discarded on a nearby playground — have risen dramatically in recent months.
Two local agencies, the Needle Exchange Program of Asheville and The Steady Collective, provide clean needles and other supplies to help reduce the negative health effects of habitual drug use in Western North Carolina. Now Buncombe County is considering starting a program of its own to combat an increase in diseases transmitted by reusing and sharing needles.
Held every other month at The Mothlight, the latest Hex dance party takes place Dec. 16 and raises funds for The Steady Collective.
Buncombe County, like many places across the country, is in the throes of an opioid epidemic, many local sources say. Despite law enforcement efforts and increased awareness of overprescribing, the last few years have seen a dramatic rise in opioid-related overdoses and deaths. Between 2005 and 2014, the county had 110 homicides, according to the […]