Charlotte is the most populous city in picturesque North Carolina, situated in Mecklenburg County. In general, residents in Mecklenburg County have higher median household incomes ($62,978) than the rest of the state of North Carolina ($50,584), per the 2017-2018 Mecklenburg County Community Health Assessment (CHA). There is an area of concentrated poverty and low levels of completed education around the Charlotte city center, however, and both of these can be risk factors for drug abuse, addiction, and poor mental health outcomes.
Substance Abuse and Overdose in Charlotte
In 2016, approximately 16.8 percent of the Charlotte population lived in poverty and 16.3 percent were uninsured. The third leading cause of death in Mecklenburg County in 2016 was unintentional injuries, of which 42 percent were accidental poisoning deaths. Nearly three-quarters of these accidental poisonings were related to an opioid overdose.
There were 166 drug overdose deaths in Mecklenburg County in 2016, approximately 121 of which involved an opioid drug. Heroin deaths spiked 884 percent in North Carolina from 2010 to 2015, the North Carolina Injury and Prevention Branch publishes. Prescription opioids remain the number one drug involved in overdose deaths in North Carolina, however, with two times as many people dying from a prescription opioid overdose than a heroin overdose. Cocaine is the third-leading drug involved in overdose deaths in North Carolina.
Charlotte is one of the worst cities in the nation for black tar heroin, WBTVreports. The city may be a hub for drug trafficking organizations coming up from Mexico.
Some statistics on drug and alcohol use and mental health concerns for Mecklenburg County from the most recent CHA follow:
- One out of eight high school students reported drinking alcohol in the month prior to the survey.
- One in three high school students reported binge drinking.
- One out of four admitted to marijuana use in the past month.
- One out of six adults report being diagnosed with depression.
- Close to one-third of all high school students said they were so sad that they stopped doing normal activities for two weeks.
Additionally, adults within the Charlotte Area Health Education Center (AHEC) binge drank at rates higher than the state average in 2015, as 14.7 percent of adults reported past-month binge drinking as compared to a state rate of 13.8 percent, the Carolinas ContinueCARE Hospital at Pineville Community Health Needs Assessment and Implementation Plan (CHC ContinueCARE) reports. Both of these rates were lower than the national average of 16.9 percent of adults in the United States, however.
The median age of residents in Mecklenburg County is lower than state and national averages also; the median age of Mecklenburg County residents in 2016 was 35.4 versus a state median age of 42.1 and a national median age of 41.2. More than half of all opioid overdose ER visits in Mecklenburg County were by individuals between the ages of 25 and 44, the CHA publishes. Age can be a predictor of drug abuse.
The Division on Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Substance Abuse Services, a division of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NC DHHS), strives to provide a Recovery-Oriented System of Care (ROSC) for its residents.
There are a variety of options in and around Charlotte for addiction and mental health support and treatment.
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The System of Behavioral Healthcare in Charlotte
The Recovery-Oriented System of Care is designed to facilitate and support long-term recovery for chronic conditions, such as addiction and mental illness. NC DHHS operates 14 healthcare facilities that provide public treatment for mental health, substance abuse, and developmental disabilities.
In North Carolina, addiction and mental healthcare are managed through a Local Managing Entity Managed Care Organization, or an LME-MCO, which for Charlotte and Mecklenburg County is Cardinal Innovations Healthcare. Through this LME-MCO, residents of Charlotte can find local contracted providers. Providers may be community-based, nonprofit organizations, or private organizations offering a range of services as needed.
Offering resources and mental health support as well as a listing of local providers, the nonprofit organization Mental Health America of Central Carolinas provides information for options in and around Charlotte. The Mecklenburg County Public Health Department provides additional information and local resources as well.
For immediate help and information, residents can use NC DHHS Crisis Services for details on county specific crisis services. In Mecklenburg County, the Cardinal Innovations Healthcare Solutions Access Center is accessible around the clock to help residents find a local crisis services provider. Mobile crisis teams are offered through Matrix, and the Monarch Crisis Center in Charlotte offers walk-in services. Residents can also find useful information about mental health and substance abuse crisis services through Crisis Solutions North Carolina.
In order to find state-regulated addiction and mental health services anywhere in the country, individuals can use the Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator operated by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which allows individuals to input a zip code and type of treatment they are seeking to find local options. Working to improve access to care for its residents, MedLink of Mecklenburg is a local advocate also offering resources, including a list of free and low-cost health service providers in Mecklenburg County.
Local treatment services in Charlotte are often offered by community-based providers in the form of preventative care, treatment services, and recovery support programs.
Individuals in North Carolina who present a danger to themselves or others due to substance abuse or mental health concerns may be involuntarily committed by a loved one or concerned person. After an assessment, individuals may then enter into a court-ordered, or mandated, assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) program through a local community-based provider. Individuals who are arrested for drug- or mental health-related offenses may qualify for the Jail Diversion Program or enter into a treatment program through the North Carolina Drug Treatment Court(DTC) system instead of facing incarceration.
Additional Information on the Local Addiction Landscape and Resources
In response to the opioid crisis facing North Carolina, Governor Ray Cooper instituted the Opioid Action Plan, which seeks to expand access to treatment and recovery resources, further educate the public on the hazards of prescription and opioid drug abuse, decrease over-prescription of controlled substances, reduce the flow of illegal drugs and diverted pharmaceuticals in the state, and increase access to the opioid overdose reversal drug Narcan (naloxone). In North Carolina, residents can obtain the medication through a standing order for naloxone that allows individuals to go to a local pharmacy and get the medication without a prescription. The North Carolina Good Samaritan/Naloxone Access Law protects individuals who administer the lifesaving medication as well as those who report an overdose from drug-related charges and civic liability.
Local coalitions, such as the Charlotte Mecklenburg Drug Free Coalition (CMDFC), seek to improve local communities by reducing the impact of alcohol and drug abuse and provide preventative and educational services as well. Needle exchange programs, public health strategies, and other harm reduction programs are provided through the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition. The Promise Resource Network (PRN) in Charlotte is a peer-run organization supporting residents in recovery. Another peer recovery support organization, the NC Region of Narcotics Anonymous (NA) has meetings and offerings in the Charlotte area as well.
Care for addiction and mental health support in Charlotte, North Carolina, begins with education and preventative measures. It is expanded through a wide range of individualized treatment services, recovery support options, and programs offered through a variety of public and private treatment providers.
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