Gaston County in top 5 counties for opioid abuse; leaders look for ways to solve problem

- "Until I got educated about how drugs affect my mind, that's the only way I could be clean," Nathaniel Thomas said while he shares his journey with heroin addiction and being sober for the last 18 months with many Gaston County officials.

Thomas came to a meeting on Wednesday to hear how officials plan on tackling the opioid crisis that is tearing families a part.

"Starting off, it was fun, until it started getting the best of me. It was making me do things that I didn't want to do. I knew it was controlling me, until I got help," he said. 

Drug addiction specialists tell FOX 46 Charlotte there's a disconnect between the police department, hospitals, mental health services and other organizations making it difficult for addicts to get help.

"Just locking them up and letting them go isn’t helping anyone. They are going right back to doing the same thing they know how to do until they can change their pattern and what they are doing, They are always going to be an addict," Thomas said.

Recently, there's a new program in Gaston County that supports using a team approach to get results.

"Now they are looking at it holistically instead of just we got the legal side, you take care of that side, and we take care of the health side. It's more of a village aspect of treating these individuals and it's the best piece to develop long term recovery," Executive Director of the Phoenix Counseling Center Kevin Oliver said.

The Gaston County Drug Diversion and Treatment program connects different departments like law enforcement and human health services. Instead of incarcerating them, police connect them with the help they need starting with substance abuse therapy allowing them to get back into the work force.

Thomas hopes this program help educates people and encourages them to kick their addictions.

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