CARY, N.C. (WNCN) – Sam Stanforth lives in Cary. He has been paying attention to opioid abuse around the country.
“I guess it’s not something that you think about everyday that your hometown is a place that could be hit hard by this, but it’s everywhere,” Stanforth said. “The fact the Town of Cary is doing something to combat this is really heartening to hear.”
Cary’s Deputy Town Manager Mike Bajorek and others are taking on the issue.
“The Monday after Thanksgiving in 2016, our fire chief came in and told me that over the Thanksgiving weekend, we had five opioid-related overdoses, three of which were fatal,” Bajorek said.
The town is piloting a wastewater monitoring project. It is placing robots within the sewer system with 10 sampling locations around the town.
Town officials said the project would generate opioid consumption data.
Bajorek said the samplings took place from February through July 2018.
“Most of its prescription opioids, but also heroin,” he said. “It shows that in all of our areas that we have illegal drug use, (and) in all the areas that we have Narcan being used.”
He said the program is also helping create a conversation.
“By having this data, we were able to go out some 50-some interviews and presentations, and talk to our community about what is going on in our neighborhoods, in our neighbors homes,” Bajorek said. “By us talking about that, that encouraged our citizens to say yes, that happened to me. Or, this happened to a family member or friend.”
Bajorek said the town had 100 suspected opioid overdoses in 2017. In 2018, that number dropped by about 40 percent.
Bajorek added the number of deaths from suspected opioid overdoses dropped from 11 in 2017 to two in 2018. The amount of prescription drugs dropped off to the town rose threefold in the same time period.
He and others like Stanforth hope the conversation continues into the future.
“If this, the work that they’re doing here in Cary, creates conversation that could be quite wide-reaching, maybe the conversation could even reach up there, and could start creating positive change,” Stanforth said.
For more information about the town’s project, click here.