RALEIGH, N.C. -- The battle to curb North Carolina's opioid crisis got a million dollar assist on Tuesday.
Healthcare provider, Aetna, presented a $1 million grant to the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition, a group dedicated to battling the opioid epidemic in the state. The money will go towards staffing their Rural Opioid Prevention Program, which provides education and anti-overdose drug naloxone in Cumberland, Johnston, Vance, Brunswick, and Haywood counties.
"With the rise of fentanyl, especially in the eastern part of the state, every second counts," said NC Harm Reduction Coalition director Robert Childs. "We're trying to load these communities up with access to naloxone so they can reverse the drug overdose sight unseen, and that way less people have to die."
North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein was in attendance for the grant presentation. He says it's important that rural counties aren't overlooked in the opioid epidemic.
"Rural counties tend to be disproportionately affected by this crisis," said Stein. "There are more pills in circulation in a lot of rural counties. The rate of death is greater in rural counties. I think developing strategies that target rural counties and support the groups that are trying to help save lives is really important."
More than 12,000 North Carolinians have died from opioid overdoses since 1999, according to the Department for Health and Human Services.