As part of its ongoing effort to facilitate community collaboration and stakeholder engagement, the Beaufort County Behavioral Health Task Force welcomed local officials and community members Tuesday for a group discussion about the county’s use of opioid settlement funds.
Beaufort County is receiving a combined $3,097,880.12 from two nationwide settlements involving major pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors as well as pharmacy chains. The disbursement of settlement funds to counties and municipalities started in 2022, and the installments will continue through 2038.
The county’s strategic plan for using those funds to combat the opioid crisis locally was the subject of Tuesday’s discussion at Beaufort County Community College. Behavioral Health Task Force Coordinator Tiffany Moore and co-chair Kelly Ange explained the details of that plan, which was developed by the Task Force and then approved by the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners in September 2022.
The approved strategies are:
Expanding peer support services throughout Beaufort County
- Two peer support specialists are being added to the community. Peer support specialists work with partnering agencies to provide navigation through treatment services as well as transitional support with a family-centered focus. Peer support specialists provide a continuum of care that is necessary outside of the clinical setting. They connect participants to outside resources such as employment, assistance with obtaining proper identification, advice regarding benefits and general support through sobriety.
Prevention through health education, with a focus on K-12
- A Health Education Specialist focuses on prevention, promoting constructive lifestyles, and discouraging drug use in youth and adolescents. This position works with Beaufort County Schools, The Boys & Girls Club, Daughters of Worth, 4-H, Beaufort County Community College and other youth-focused organizations in the community to educate youth on the dangers of substance abuse.
Maintaining the Behavioral Health Task Force Collaborative
- Maintaining the collaboration includes continued funding for the BHTF collaboration for operational support, community outreach initiatives and educational campaigns. BHTF is working to identify agencies that would benefit from the strategies listed in the opioid settlement. The BHTF is working to seek other funding sources to supplement opioid remediation activities as the group continues to focus on ways to fund an inpatient treatment facility and looks to partner with other counties.
Community pilot projects targeting substance misuse and/or prevention in Beaufort County
- For the next three years, the BHTF will allot $10,000 annually towards community projects. The two recipients for 2023 are the Boys and Girls Club of the Coastal Plain and Daughters of Worth. These community pilot projects are eligible to receive $5,000 for each of the three years if they provide the metrics required by the task force. Both have received the $5,000 allotment for this year. Funds will be used to relaunch the Boys and Girls Club of Belhaven’s SMART MOVES substance use prevention program. Daughters of Worth, which provides trauma-informed comprehensive services for females, will use the funds for emergency services (shelter, medical needs, etc.) for victims.
The event was open to the public, and there were opportunities for anyone in attendance to ask questions about and provide feedback on the Opioid Action Plan.
“I’m appreciative of those who were able to attend the public engagement session,” Beaufort County Health Director JaNell Octigan said. “It was great to have community partners, county officials, and those with lived experiences be able to reflect and provide insight regarding the opioid settlement funding strategies, as well as additional needs in the county. This funding is only a piece of what is needed to continue the momentum of change regarding substance misuse. I'm hopeful that we as a collaborative continue to work to obtain additional funding sources to help combat substance misuse in Beaufort County."
The Behavioral Health Task Force is part of Beaufort County 360, a nonprofit organization that seeks to use a collaborative network of local stakeholders to improve the quality of life of Beaufort County residents. The Task Force seeks to identify the behavioral health needs in Beaufort County and respond with evidence-based practice practices and collaborative action.
“Beaufort County is dedicated to helping individuals with opioid use disorder,” Moore said. “The Behavioral Health Taskforce continues to work collectively to provide resources and support for individuals suffering from OUD. The financial support provided by the opioid settlement will enable us to extend our reach to unserved or underserved populations. It is such a blessing for Beaufort County and the people across the country that have been impacted by this epidemic. It is an honor and a privilege to work alongside this group of dedicated partners and community members throughout this process.”