NEW BERN, N.C. (WNCT) – Craven County’s Opioid Epidemic Response Department has one goal: reduce the number of opioid-related overdoses and deaths.

Over the next 18 years, just over $15 million in national Opioid Settlement Funds will go into Craven County. Amber Parker is the county’s human resources director. She said the program started in 2017.

“Since 2017, Craven County has routinely showed up on data maps as being one of the top counties in North Carolina for having overdose deaths and also having overdose-related emergency department visits,” Parker said.

Data from NCDHHS showed Craven County had 165 opioid overdose emergency department visits within the last year.

“Is it Craven County residents? Is it because we have a hospital here and people are coming from other areas? That’s one of the things our group, our Epidemic Response Department has to get to the bottom of. Because why is the problem so bad here in Craven County?” Parker said.

Col. Eric Lund, a retired Army physician, also serves on the team. Lund’s job is to make sure the county follows the Memorandum of Agreement Between the State of North Carolina and Local Governments on Proceeds Relating to the Settlement of Opioid Litigation (NCMOA).

With the new office, Lund said the department is ready to help.

“We’ve got people walking into our offices telling us what they need for their loved one or the loved one themselves is saying I need help,” Lund said.

What kind of help can the department provide? Opioid Outreach Coordinator Jasmine Canady is the boots on the ground.

“You see everything. You see, again, individuals that are hopeless. You see individuals that want to get help but sometimes when they’re in that tunnel of darkness, they don’t know how to ask for help,” Canady said.

The department connects people to treatment services and resources and also supports the distribution of Naloxone, provides funding for a Post Overdose Response Team and helps with Recovery Housing Support.

“We show you where those resources are. Meaning transportation, appointment, treatment, housing. I’m not going to say we’re the know-it-alls, but again we’re the ones who say hey we’re here for you, we know where you can go for help,” Canady said.

The office is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is located at 2822 Neuse Boulevard in New Bern. Call (252) 636-7262 for more information.