A public forum later this month will seek an action plan to help people here who suffer from mental illness and opioid addiction.
“Losing a Generation: Addressing the Mental Health Care Crisis and Combatting the Opioid Epidemic” will be held at Vineland Station Monday, March 26 from 6-8 p.m. The event is sponsored by The News Reporter, Columbus Regional Healthcare and Scalawag magazine.
“Most people have a pretty good sense of what a serious problem this is,” said News Reporter Editor Les High. “Everyone knows someone who is struggling with mental illness or addiction. We know the issues, now we’ve got to try to find solutions that work specifically for Columbus County.”
The forum will be held in two parts. The first will be a 30-minute segment filmed for UNC-TV. The next segment will offer the public a chance to hear from and talk to people who are on the front lines of mental illness care and opioid addiction treatment and intervention.
“The format will be arranged so there’s give and take,” High said. “We can’t find the right solutions if the people who are directly affected aren’t heard. We want as many people involved in the conversation as possible.”
Panelists include Andy Anderson and reporter Sammy Feldblum, who covered the crisis in a series published for The News Reporter and Scalawag in late 2017. They will address how the community has been affected by opioids. Rep. Brenden Jones and Alan Dellapenna Jr., of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, will talk about legislation and a multi-point plan that Health and Human Services has adopted to address opioids. Terri Veneziano, Chief Nursing Officer and VP of Patient Care Services at Columbus Regional and Nicolle Karin, who heads the North Carolina Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, will talk about the front lines of opioid intervention.
Other local panelists from law enforcement, the health department and local mental health services will join the conversation. The evening will end with groups making a short list of recommendations for solutions.