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SBI Director says number of North Carolina opioid deaths is rising

Opioid-related emergency department visits have increased steadily over the past decade
N.C. Department of Health and Human Services
Opioid-related emergency department visits have increased steadily over the past decade

Bob Schurmeier says 12 people in North Carolina die every day from an opioid overdose.

In 2020, that number was nine per day.

Speaking at a meeting of the State Emergency Response Commission on Friday, he said the SBI is trying to address the problem by pursuing the people who sell and distribute opioids illegally.

"10% of the wiretaps across the country had been written and conducted by our agency," he said. "It's a fourth most in the country only behind New York, New Jersey and Nevada. So we're taking on the cartels in a big way."

While SBI is focused on opioid trafficking, communities across the state are getting new resources to deal with treatment and addiction. Many counties are receiving their first share of a $750 million settlement with opioid makers.

Overdose emergency department visits have tripled over the past decade, even as emergency services personnel are trained and equipped with Naloxone kits, the life saving overdose reversal medication.

State health leaders generally say interventions are working. Although overdose deaths and ED visits are increasing, they say it's likely the numbers would be even higher without these interventions.

Bradley George is WUNC's AM reporter. A North Carolina native, his public radio career has taken him to Atlanta, Birmingham, Nashville and most recently WUSF in Tampa. While there, he reported on the COVID-19 pandemic and was part of the station's Murrow award winning coverage of the 2020 election. Along the way, he has reported for NPR, Marketplace, The Takeaway, and the BBC World Service. Bradley is a graduate of Guilford College, where he majored in Theatre and German.