People gather for National Overdose Awareness Day
LEDGER – Family members of those lost to drug addiction were joined by community leaders and others Friday, Aug. 31, at Bear Creek Baptist Church to recognize National Overdose Awareness Day.
Deemed “A Time to Act, A Time to Remember,” the event featured speakers from the local faith-based community, law enforcement, elected officials and recovering addicts as well as a balloon release at halftime of the Mitchell High School football game that was taking place a few hundred yards away.
The event was moderated by the Rev. Bruce Cannon, pastor of Bear Creek Baptist Church. The church is also the location of Celebrate Recovery, a ministry geared toward addicts, alcoholics and their loved ones.
“Addicts become someone they are not, and they do not want to be,” said Matthew “Vern” Grindstaff, chair of the Mitchell County Board of Commissioners and pastor of Pleasant Gap Baptist Church. “Last year at this event, we committed to taking serious action in Mitchell County to combat the drug problem, and in the next few months, along with some neighboring counties, we are going to initiate drug court. As a pastor and an elected official, the Lord has given me two of the greatest platforms one can have to make a difference.”
Drug courts are specialized court docket programs that target criminal defendants and offenders, juvenile offenders and parents with pending child welfare cases who have alcohol and other drug dependency problems. The estimated number of drug courts operating in the U.S. is more than 3,000.
District Judge Ted McIntire told the crowd heroin overdoses in North Carolina have increased 884 percent in the past five years.
“My main concern for the people in my courtroom is keeping them alive,” McIntire said. “The storm is coming, and we can’t incarcerate ourselves out of an epidemic.”
First Baptist Church of Spruce Pine pastor and Hope 4 Mitchell County founder Dr. Rocky Branch said one’s faith could go a long way toward curbing one’s addiction.
“Our weakness is not the lust of our flesh, it is the weakness of our faith,” he said. “There has to be change in your life and salvation is a birth experience. Drugs come into people’s lives when they have no self-worth, but they should always have self-worth because God Loves you and Jesus died for you.”
Other speakers at the event included Mitchell County DSS Director Paula Holtsclaw, Mitchell County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Josh Sparks, Celebrate Recovery Women’s Ministry Leader Jessica Williams, who shared a story about her triumph over addiction, Mitchell County EMS Supervisor Josh Cooke, Mitchell County E.D. Director Megan McKinney and Celebrate Recovery Ministry Leader Josh Wise.