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City Council hears updates on Wilmington Rail Trail, Quick Response Team

Hannah Breisinger
In Jan. 2020, the Wilmington Area Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Friends of the Wilmington Rail Trail kicked off the development of a multimodal master plan for the project.

Wilmington’s last City Council meeting of the year was this week, and featured a jam-packed agenda. WHQR’s Ben Schachtman and Hannah Breisinger discuss what’s new heading into 2021.

BREISINGER: Hi, I'm Hannah Breisinger.

SCHACHTMAN: And I'm Ben Schachtman.

BREISINGER: So this week's city council meeting -- there was a lot of different items and one of them was the Quick Response Team. So what is that? And what were the latest updates?

SCHACHTMAN: So the Quick Response Team was launched in 2018. It's based on a program from Ohio, and the basic idea is getting help to people who have suffered an overdose within 72 hours and trying to get them into detox and treatment as quickly as possible. The latest update was about basically how that program has worked so far.

BREISINGER: And I know that there are some questions about the funding of the Quick Response Team and how this program is going to continue moving forward. It started as a pilot program and it's kind of starting to expand a little, so what's going on there?

SCHACHTMAN: Sure. So the program, especially because it's been so successful, I think it's now up around 90% success ratio of getting people into treatment. It was funded at $250,000 a year from state funding. For two years there was actually money in a budget, this most recent cycle. And that sort of was a victim of the budget struggle in Raleigh over the last year.

SCHACHTMAN: So they were able to cobble together funding from the City of Wilmington, New Hanover County, United Way of the Cape Fear and the Cape Fear Memorial Foundation. And that's enough to keep them going for about six months, but long-term  they need money from the state budget. So that process is underway, but it will depend heavily on what happens during the next budget cycle.

BREISINGER: Yeah. And I know that Kenny House, VP of Clinical Services at Coastal Horizons, also mentioned that the QRT is seeing a lot of increases in overdoses right now, due to the pandemic and higher unemployment, social isolation, increased financial stress. So that will be interesting to see how they're able to keep going, with potentially more people coming through the door.

SCHACHTMAN: Absolutely. I mean, it's part of the reason that they know it's successful is that more and more people are reaching out to them.

BREISINGER: Yeah. So let's talk about the Wilmington Rail Trail. That was another presentation we heard at the beginning of the meeting, and we heard some updates on that. What were the basics there?

SCHACHTMAN: So this has picked up speed lately. If you know where this area is, it's the North Side of Wilmington. And so that sort of, submerged trench that runs from CFCC to MacRae Street since 1990, nothing's been going on there. Over the last couple of years, there's been a lot more motion to turn that to sort of an active park. So you'd be able to sort of walk up and down. There'd be art installations, with a caveat that they sort of have to hold a space in case rail returns.

BREISINGER: And is it a possibility that rail could return to the Rail Trail?

SCHACHTMAN: So that's an important question. And it depends on who you ask. One of the private backers of this program, before it got taken up by a local government, said there was a better chance of Elon Musk building a Hyperloop between Raleigh and Wilmington than CSX returning passenger rail to there. But if you ask the NCDOT, it's still a real possibility. So for now they have to consider that.

SCHACHTMAN: All right. Well thank you so much.

BREISINGER: All right. Thanks Ben.