North Carolina’s latest state budget allocated millions of dollars to organizations that will facilitate treatment for substance use disorder (SUD). But most of the recipients, which range from county health departments to churches, don’t appear to offer medication for opioid use disorder (MOUD). Overdose in North Carolina has been rising at a faster rate than the United States overall.
Scientific consensus is clear that medication for opioid use disorder (MOUD), particularly buprenorphine and methadone, are effective at managing withdrawal and cravings and reducing overdose. Those FDA-approved medications are considered the “gold standard.” But they remain highly stigmatized—especially methadone, which is more commonly accessible to Black and Brown people through the clinic system than buprenorphine, which is prescribed to predominately white people who can often pick it up at a pharmacy.
Of 20 funding recipients identified by NC Health News, only two appear to offer MOUD. Ten of the programs operate on Christian, 12-Step or abstinence-based models that do not include or allow MOUD.
“We are abstinence-based, which means we do not use drugs to keep people off of drugs,” states the website for Bridge For Recovery, Inc., which received $1.3 million. “THIS DOESN’T WORK.”
The North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition received a paltry $150,000 over two years.
According to NC Health News, Brunswick Christian Recovery Center, received $1.1 million. It’s website states that it does not offer “conventional drug and alcohol treatment or MAT services. Our program is designed to encourage recovery by developing a relationship with Jesus Christ and working the 12-step program.”
The budget allocated $10 million to Hope Alive Inc., which according to NC Health News is part of a church and working to open an 82-bed “rehab facility.” It does not have any clear experience offering drug treatment services.
The largest individual sum, $11 million, was granted to TROSA in Durham. TROSA denies services to people “who use the safest and most effective medications for opioid addiction,” according to the Charlotte Observer.
The budget does allocate $8 million to expand a pilot program that gives MOUD to formerly incarcerated people on probation, parole or post-release supervision. It allows all FDA-approved MOUD, but puts corrections officers in charge.
Meanwhile, the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition received a paltry $150,000 over two years to purchase and distribute naloxone.
Less than half of North Carolina residents with OUD receive medication. Tax money could be allocated to providers offering evidence-based treatments, rather than ones that rebuke them.