CHARLOTTE N.C. — Numbers released from the North Carolina Office of the Chief Medical Examiner show a 7% increase in suspected overdose deaths in 2022, and a new recovery program is stepping in to help. 

Medical professionals credit the onset of the pandemic to a large part of the reason why overdoses have started to rise again in North Carolina, similar to nationwide trends.

What You Need To Know

  • Overdose deaths continue to trend up, hitting record numbers since the start of the pandemic

  • The Charlotte Rescue Mission's recovery living program enables its program graduates to stay in a structured program for up to two years

  • The organization credits the program for the reason that  local numbers are not following state and national overdose trends 

North Carolina Department of Health and Human services released its Opioid Action Plan in 2017 to combat the opioid crisis. NCDHHS metrics show overdose deaths decreasing after that plan went into place. However, overdose deaths made a significant rebound in 2020. 

At the Charlotte Rescue Mission, an addiction treatment center, the chief program officer says they implemented a new recovery living program at the onset of the pandemic.

"When things were closing and our residents who were graduating were not having places to go, we were blessed by LendingTree Foundation to be a part of their philanthropy cohort. And through their eyes and our vision, recovery living grew," Chief Program Officer Trina Fullard said. 

Men and women struggling with addiction can enroll in the Christian-based organization's free residential 120-day structured program. This core program includes counseling, group therapy, education classes, life skills training and biblical application according to the company website.

Usually, after people graduate from this program, that's it. Now, graduates have the option to go into Recovery Living, which provides affordable housing for up to two years as long as those in the program comply with the rules and guidelines.

One person in the program who didn't want to be identified says he is working now, and recovery living has made the difference in his journey.

"Because like getting out and going back home sometimes is not the greatest thing because you want to stay away from those people that you did the drugs with, of course. You want to be away from them and you just want that structure," he said.

Fullard says 40%-45% of graduates from their 120-day program are choosing to stay longer. She credits the recovery living program for why Charlotte Rescue Mission is not seeing the increasing overdose trends like other places are.

"Research shows substance use disorder is more than just the using of the drugs, it's learning how to have a plan and a practice for your life," Fullard said. 

Those in recovery living have a curfew, have to be working or in school, must attend regular meetings, and are subject to random urine screens.

Fullard says the Charlotte Rescue Mission has more freedom to keep people in their program for a longer period of time without worrying about getting people in and out of the program quickly. She says that's because they are privately funded by donors rather than being funded federally or by the state.