Mecklenburg County discovered a growing need for substance use intervention after conducting
a community health assessment in 2015. Area leaders formed a task force to begin addressing
top issues. That task force was beginning to assess its progress in 2017 when they learned
about the Opioid Response Project available through the UNC School of Government. The team
points to the Opioid Response Project as instrumental in helping to realign their priorities to take
their progress further.
“It was a pivotal moment for us,” said Victoria Beaton, prevention specialist with Anuvia
Prevention and Recovery. “The project helped put us on a more direct path to our goals, going
back to do important work like establishing group norms and doing some strategic planning.”
The Mecklenburg team had an initial goal of establishing their presence as a community group.
They began pulling together educational materials like one-pagers, business cards, and the
design of a Facebook page. “We wanted the community to better understand who we are and
what we do,” said Beaton. “That community buy-in was a huge step in the right direction for us.”
The team also established a Transitional Care Work Group, including treatment providers and
physicians with the bigger hospitals, like Atrium and Novant. The goal was working toward a
system for better supporting emergency room patients experiencing overdose. The work group
helped create a system of accountability to make sure emergency departments contact
treatment facilities, so they are ready to receive patients after an overdose. They also created
an assessment to help determine if patients are eligible for various treatment facilities to avoid
negative experiences for the patient.
Establishing medication assisted treatment (MAT) options was another early focus of the
Mecklenburg County Opioid Response Task Force. “Harm reduction is becoming a more
accepted form of treatment,” said Beaton. “Projects like this have paved the way for MAT to
become more mainstream.” The task force also supported local access to syringe exchange
services. They hope to lease a permanent site where syringe exchange services can take place
safely in a controlled environment and connecting patients to treatment can be a natural
In such a large, urban community, the team faced challenges gaining attention as a top priority.
Participation with the Opioid Response Project helped them better define their task force and
the issue they were working to address. That focus helped them get more attention at the
county level. The team was also quite large and composed of busy community leaders, so they
benefited from the structure the Opioid Response Project provided. “We needed a system for
holding us accountable for follow-through,” said Beaton.
The team points to the Opioid Response Project forums as instrumental in improving the
effectiveness of the Mecklenburg task force. Members were able to network with other
community leaders from around the state, gathering ideas and feedback to help them grow. “I
can’t say enough good things about this experience,” said Beaton. “The School of Government
team really cared about what we wanted and needed. They helped us discover areas we
needed to improve and roadblocks we needed to move.”
Next up for the task force is a system for tracking their impact on the community’s needs. It can
be hard to stop and acknowledge the work you have done and articulate the progress made.
“We’ll be working on clear data reporting to help boost political will and buy-in from our
community,” said Beaton. “ With help from the Opioid Response Project, we feel like we have
the tools we need to make our work long-lasting and sustainable.”
Learn about the Mecklenburg County Substance Use Disorder Task Force.