LUMBERTON — A new plan to combat drug addiction in Robeson County and to reduce the number of deaths by overdose is being sought by the sheriff and district attorney.
From Jan. 1 to May 4, there have been 20 confirmed deaths in the county, and two autopsies in possible overdose deaths are pending, Sheriff Burnis Wilkins said. Deputies have responded to 186 overdose calls so far this year.
“We are equal to what we had last year for the whole year,” Wilkins said of overdose deaths.
Of those deaths, 64% were male and 36% female, Wilkins said. Fifty percent of the deaths were people in the 30-39 age range and 36% in the 20-29 age group.
The county’s American Indian population accounted for 59% of the deaths; whites, 31.8%; African Americans, 4.5%; and Hispanics, 4.5%.
Wilkins said he is ready to put a stop to the deaths.
He is working to schedule a meeting with Robeson County District Attorney Matt Scott and health-care representatives to map out a plan to get funding for a rehabilitation program for drug addicts, Wilkins said.
“We’re all seeking answers, obviously,” he said.
He hopes to offer recovery to addicts who want help, but can’t afford it, Wilkins said.
“We’ve got to seek out some ways of providing help to these folks which have no funds at all, which will probably be an issue,” he said.
He also plans to ask the county Board of Commissioners for money in the next fiscal year’s budget to pay for a detective position that will specialize in overdose investigations and deaths associated with drug use, the sheriff said.
The District Attorney’s Office supports Wilkins’ budgetary plan, Scott said.
“I think the Sheriff’s Office needs that,” Scott said. “I think the county needs that.”
He looks forward to coming up with solutions to tackle the issue in the county, the district attorney said.
“We need to think outside the box and bring different approaches to try to address this problem, this growing problem,” Scott said.
Results from the county’s DWI Treatment Court are positive and will help in the formation of a drug treatment court and rehabilitation program later, he said.
“It has given us an idea of what we can look for and model for,” Scott said.
The District Attorney’s Office was allotted about $250,000 for a county drug treatment court in the state’s budget, which has not yet been approved, he said. The funding, if approved, is to be used over two years to target drug activity in the county and offer offenders treatment.
“Traditionally, we have not gotten the resources in this county to address our tremendous need,” Scott said.
The University of North Carolina at Pembroke is helping the District Attorney’s Office search for more funding for an adult drug treatment court, he said.
More evidence of the drug problem in Robeson County was found recently in Red Springs, where the police department is investigating two overdoses and one death.
The overdoses occurred in a park off Samuel Williams Drive, according to the police department.
On Sunday, 53-year-old Tina Thomas Boley, of 826 W Third Ave. in Red Springs, was found unconscious at the park about 11 p.m., according to the police department. Two days earlier, 29-year-old A.D. Smith Jr., of 100 Dallas Ave., was found unconscious there. Narcan was used to revive Smith and Boley.
The police department also is investigating the Friday death of 41-year-old Maurice Richards, who was found dead in his home on 100 Malpass Ave., according to a police statement. Relatives living with Richards found him unresponsive in his bedroom about 7 p.m. and called 911.
An autopsy has been requested to determine the cause of Richards’ death, according to the police department.
Anyone with information about the overdoses should call the police department at 910-843-3454.
Reach Jessica Horne at 910-416-5165 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This content was originally published here.