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Feds help with prosecution, treatment for opioid crisis in North Carolina

HIGH POINT, N.C. -- A mother of three, Tammy Bean never thought she would become addicted to drugs.

“I didn’t get into drugs until a death of a child, he was 2 years old,” Bean said.

Her story with opioids started with a simple back injury. She slowly started taking more painkillers.

“As that progresses, my tolerance built up, and then I couldn’t get pain medication from doctor anymore, they cut me off because I was abusing it,” she said. “And I found the heroin was so easy, the access was incredibly easy and it was a lot cheaper.”

Bean has spent the past month at Caring Services Inc. in High Point, a nonprofit state licensed mental health facility. She recently relapsed after five years sober.

“Started alienating my family, friends, it’s a very lonely disease,” Bean said. Recently she has reconnected with her family and says the support of her sons has been a pillar of support for a disease she knows there’s no destination for, but rather a battle and journey she will face the rest of her life.

“The face of addiction is the face of North Carolina,” North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein said. “It affects people in the country and in the city. It affects old people and young people.”

Stein has seen addiction grip families and communities from Hickory to Wilmington, but is optimistic about tackling the disease moving forward with the help of recently passed laws like the STOP Act.

“That law will reduce the number of people who are addicted through smarter prescribing,” Stein said.

And the federal government is sending help as well. The Department of Justice designated the state’s middle district, which includes all the Piedmont Triad, as a place where extra resources are needed and will be sending a federal prosecutor to help take down traffickers in the black market.

“These are when people are getting the painkillers illegally and selling them on the black market,” Stein said.

And the state recently received more than $30 million in grant money that will go towards treatment.

“Prison costs $32,000-33,000 per year,” Stein said. “Treatment, it depends on the program, it can be $5,000, $7,000, $10,000.”

For folks struggling like Bean, that help couldn’t come soon enough.

“There’s not enough treatment centers for us, there’s a waiting list,” Bean said. “It’s really scary, because I know people who try to get help and they can’t get help.”

It’s unclear if a nonprofit like Caring Services will see that money, since the grant goes through the Department of Health and Human Services, but Bean says her experience at the treatment center has been life-changing.

“The difference in being surrounded by people who are suffering from the same disease, addiction, that I am is they understand where I’m coming from,” she said.

According to Guilford County EMS, more than 500 people have overdosed in 2017, 26 of which have been fatal. This week alone we’ve seen six overdoses in High Point, and 10 in Greensboro.