KINSTON, NC (WNCT) — Lawmakers are still discussing Senate Bill 189 in North Carolina, which would call for harsher penalties for fentanyl-related crimes.

In the meantime, Lenoir County officials are getting ahead in fighting the war on drugs by holding a community conversation held by expert panelists.

“We want to start a community conversation and we want the community involved in making change,” said Colleen Kosinski, Accountability and Recovery Court Administrator for the 8th Judicial District of North Carolina.

“If it was an illness like diabetes or health disease, we have walks and relays,” Kosinski said. “But with substance use disorder, it’s something that people feel ashamed to talk about and, as a result, we are losing too many people to substance abuse.”

This comes at a time when neighbors in the community say substance abuse is a huge threat to the city.

“Oh in this town? Drugs are bad, we have so much killing and so much crime,” said Kinston resident Daniel Hill.

Kosinski said this is a step in the right direction for the town to address the opioid crisis.

“We also need to get people educated, especially drugs like fentanyl. A very small amount of drug can literally kill somebody,” Kosinski said.

This event is part of the Mind Over Matter Mental Health Series presented by the Kinston-Lenoir County Public Library. The next conversation will be held in a week and will focus on helping kids and teens avoid and overcome addiction.