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NC health department hosts summit about opioid epidemic

The State Department of Health and Human Services hosted a summit to discuss the opioid epidemic. More than 600 people attended the two-day summit. They talked about the specifics of treatment, prevention, enforcement, and eliminating a negative public perception of addiction. (Photo credit: WLOS Staff)

The State Department of Health and Human Services hosted a summit to discuss the opioid epidemic.

More than 600 people attended the two-day summit. They talked about the specifics of treatment, prevention, enforcement, and eliminating a negative public perception of addiction.

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People from more than 10 states and all over North Carolina attended the summit.

"The opioid epidemic represents one of today's gravest public health threats," North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein said.

Stein kicked off day two on Wednesday with a talk about an all-encompassing approach to combat opioid addiction. He's also pushing to outlaw more synthetic drugs.

"There's a particular type of Fentanyl, which is a chemical derivative of opioid, which is not illegal in North Carolina, and we've got to close that loophole so that we can hold the traffickers accountable," Stein said.

A number of people from WNC were sitting in the auditorium listening. MAHEC's Dr. Blake Fagan also spoke in a breakout session. He talked with News13 about what role doctors played in creating the epidemic, and how they can now help to resolve it.

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"For the last three years, I've been teaching the residents (medical school residents), and actually anybody that will listen, the appropriate way that we should be managing acute and chronic pain, which means less opioids," Dr. Fagan said.

Vaya Health led a discussion specifically about western North Carolina and said counties in WNC have higher opioid prescription rates compared to an average county in N.C. Vaya Health CEO Brian Ingraham also discussed issues of access to care. He showed News 13 a laminated chart he always carries.

"It's pretty easy to see that if you're on the Medicaid side, you know we have a much greater opportunity to provide care than if you do not have Medicaid," Ingraham said .

Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen called $10 million budgeted over two years for treatment a good start.

"It's been 25 years in the making to get us to this crisis point, and it's going to need all of our collective action to get out," Dr. Cohen said.

Cohen called for more funding for treatment.

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