Beaufort Co. counselor program aims to reduce substance abuse

WASHINGTON, N.C. (WNCT) — A program in Beaufort County is trying to lower the number of drug overdose deaths in eastern North Carolina.

In 2015, there were 22 deaths in Craven County. Onslow and Carteret counties each had 15. In Pitt County there were 12, in Lenoir County there were seven and in Beaufort County there were five.

“It’s cost people their lives, from the young to the very old, so we can’t be quick to judge,” said Glenn Mercer, operations chief for Beaufort County EMS. “Substance abuse in our nation is truly an epidemic, and it’s adversely affecting this area.”

The substance abuse counselor program at Beaufort Community College is for anyone who has a passion to help those battling addiction.

“They first learn about intake and assessment,” said Stacey Gerard, vice president of continuing education. “Once they review those two, then they move into looking at intervention and counseling techniques.”

This is the second year they have held this course, but the college has seen an increase in enrollment this coming semester.

“Substance abuse is an issue that’s growing both at the county level at the state level, and even at the national level,” Gerard said.

The skills learned in the course have real-world applications.

“They can take the skills that they learned from our qualified faculty and instructors and then they can take those and help these individuals who are experiencing substance abuse,” Gerard said.

The goal is to help community break the opioid epidemic.

“Our overdoses here in just this county alone has gone up over 400 percent,” said Mercer.

The program is meant to complement other programs on campus such as its NARCAN training for local emergency responders.

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