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Buncombe DA unveils plan to address opioids
Wednesday, 01 November 2017 21:30

From Staff Reports

Buncombe County District Attorney Todd Williams announced a battle plan to fight the local opioid epidemic during an Oct. 3 press conference. 

Buncombe County Sheriff Van Duncan and Asheville Police Chief Tammy Hooper were also in attendance.

 Describing the initiative as a “carrot-and-stick” approach, Williams said his department emphasizes getting people with addictions into treatment, but the problem has gotten bad enough to require tougher measures in order to protect innocents and ensure justice.

 Williams said he wanted to be sure users would know they would receive help as many times as they asked — and that this was not a zero-tolerance or “three strikes and you’re out” program. The county offers multiple options for persons arrested on drug charges to enter rehabilitation.

 However, if somebody is selling drugs to support his or her habit, the county is going to get tough, Williams said. Not only does carrying 28 grams or more of an opioid come with a minimum sentence of 225 months in jail; if somebody dies of an overdose, the seller can be charged with second-degree murder.

 Williams and Duncan said they are committed to swift street action to apprehend traffickers.

 Williams shared some local statistics. So far this year, the sheriff’s department has received more than 350 drug-related emergency calls for service, well over twice the number received in 2015. Emergency department visits for overdoses numbered 230, compared to 84 two years ago.

Williams said his sudden interest in batling the opioid crisis was spurred by his attendance at a recent Drug Enforcement Agency conference.



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