RALEIGH, N.C. -- It’s a problem that touches everyone, from young to old and wealthy to poor. And it’s a problem that leaders say they want to find answers for how to fix it.

  • One task force says changes could make a difference
  • More treatment options for addicts being discussed
  • Could take time before task force makes recommendations

For one task force charged with looking at the specific issue of whether or not state sentencing guidelines need to change to help fight the opioid epidemic, they say changes could make a difference.

“Make them move in a direction that is more intelligent, that is smarter, that would make them more beneficial not only to the individual, but to the community,” said Rep. Greg Murphy, a Republican and medical doctor from Pitt County.

The task force is made up of legislators, prosecutors, and judges. For those on the bench they say it would help to have more treatment options for addicts, but they say it’s not possible today because of a lack of beds that are available at treatment facilities.

“I could have all the discretion in the world, but when I don't have the discretion to put somebody somewhere immediately, it's meaningless,” said Judge Todd Pomeroy. "It’s all theory, it’s all talk. And you have to take action on it."

At a meeting on Tuesday, the task force got to see how other states have handled drug epidemics and the types of results they have gotten. History supports the idea of treatment.

“Spending it on treatment instead of incarceration, you are going to get a 15-fold increase in effectiveness,” said Dr. Duren Banks with RTI International.

There are no arguments against punitive actions. The questions are how much is enough and should it be discretionary?

One dad on the task force, whose son is in prison on opioid charges, say changes need to happen.

“He's alive because he's in jail,” said Beacham Wray. “It’s as simple as that. The problem is, why are we keeping him there?”

The task force says with the complexity of the issue, it could take some time before it makes any recommendations.

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