JACKSONVILLE, N.C., (WNCT) – After focusing two years on COVID-19, Onslow County wants to pick up a conversation that was put on hold before the pandemic, the ongoing opioid crisis.

Onslow County leaders met to address the issue head-on with a forum with notable panelists. The main point that panelists got across was partnership, said Dr. Tobi Gilbert, a psychologist and police crisis counselor for the Jacksonville Police Department.

“Our goal here in this community is to work together as a community, and to get our people whatever they need when they need it,” said Gilbert. “And the only way that can be done is by coming together, relying on each other relying on our partners”

Gilbert was one of the three panelists in the discussion surrounding the opioid crisis. The forum was facilitated by District 6 North Carolina Sen. Michael Lazzarra.

“Today is about having the conversation and really talking about where we are with our recovery and all the gaps that we think that we still need to work on,” said Lazzarra.

He asked the panelists about the different issues they face.

“Transportation, communication, peer support is huge,” said Lazzarra. “Getting more people access to Medicaid so that they can get the services that they need as a follow-up program, whether that’s medication or peer support”

In addition to that are the statistics surrounding opioid addiction and overdoses.

“Even though our numbers may be low compared to other counties, it’s still a crisis within our county and causing problems for our individuals who, when they need treatment, they need treatment,” said Gilbert.

All panelists say they plan to continue to resolve these issues and work hand-in-hand with one another.

“It’s a conversation that we need to continue to have, and to look at the gaps that we need to continue to work on,” said Lazzarra.

Leaders said there is no set time to recover from addiction, but they intend to help everyone that they can.