Beaufort County Tackles Opioid Abuse by Focusing on Whole Patient Care

With support from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, organizations in Beaufort County will expand substance misuse services for residents and deepen the faith community’s involvement in health improvement efforts. The investments are part of the Trust’s long-term Healthy Places NC initiative, which announced a series of grants awarded to organizations across the state.

Metropolitan Community Health Services, a federally qualified health center headquartered in Beaufort County, will receive $906,000 to expand its efforts to help those affected by opioid misuse through a behavioral care model and a whole-patient approach to care, which means health, behavioral health, and social services are coordinated to provide tailored care for the specific patient.

Since 1999, more than 13,000 North Carolinians have died from unintentional overdoses; and last year alone, the state dispensed nearly 10 million opioid prescriptions. After surveying the population of Eastern North Carolina, Metropolitan understood that to see change in the community, they had to change residents’ habits. Opioid abstinence involves more than just sending residents to clinics, so to address the community’s needs, Metropolitan established a medication assistance program, which utilizes a combination of medication and behavioral health therapy techniques. Through this combination of therapies, residents are screened and connected with experts who can help them receive the appropriate amount and level of treatment.

“Ultimately, we want total and complete abstinence from opioid misuse in our community. Thanks to the grant from the Trust, we won’t only be able to treat opioid users, but we can also help residents sustain employment and return or stay in school,” said Michael McDuffie, executive director of Metropolitan Community Health Services. “We see a lot of young folks who become addicted to opioids, and we want to help them get clean and return to living a healthy life. This initiative will have a huge impact throughout the entire community.”

In addition, Cornerstone Family Worship Center in Washington, NC will receive a $242,825 grant to engage faith leaders in health improvement efforts throughout Beaufort County. Cornerstone Family Worship Center has played a central role in Beaufort County’s health improvement efforts by developing programs and scripture-based lessons for their congregation.

“As faith leaders we can’t just pastor our church, we must pastor our whole community. This community faces serious health challenges and we are in a unique position to help,” said Bishop James McIntyre Sr.,

Senior Pastor at Cornerstone Family Worship Center. “This program will help us come together, learn from each other and make sure we are not duplicating efforts. And, at the end of the day, we hope to improve both quality of life and quantity.”

Through the creation of Beaufort County, Healthy Clergy, Healthy Congregations, Health Communities (BCHC3), Cornerstone will recruit 20 faith leaders from across the county to learn about the policy changes and health efforts at Cornerstone so they can replicate the work at their own places of worship. Cornerstone will also enlist these leaders to select and train lay health advisors to help promote health throughout the community.

“A major piece of the Trust’s Healthy Places NC work is looking at factors beyond the hospital walls that impact a person’s well-being. Supporting a whole patient approach to treating the opioid epidemic is a natural outgrowth of our mission to ensure equitable access to quality health care, economic opportunities and educational attainment in the communities we serve,” said Laura Gerald, president of the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust. “These grants are a testament to the momentum in Beaufort County to improve health and overall quality of life in the community. It is exciting to see Beaufort residents and organizations coming together to develop local solutions to local challenges.”

Beaufort County is part of the Trust’s Healthy Places NC initiative. The Trust plans to invest $100 million in rural counties over a 10-year period. To date, the Trust has invited seven counties—McDowell, Beaufort, Burke, Halifax, Rockingham, Edgecombe and Nash Counties—to participate and will announce additional counties in the coming years. In each county, Healthy Places NC work and projects are driven by the community’s concerns, and the Trust works in partnership with residents for sustainable, long-term change.