By Tanner Hall

Jackson County Health Department is teaming with The Community Foundation to launch an Opioid Awareness Campaign.

Health Director Shelley Carraway told commissioners Tuesday she wants their help to establish September as Opioid Awareness Month. 

The partnership’s budget includes money to hire an intern and print banners and a magazine to distribute a doctors and counselors offices. 

The magazine would feature information about different drugs, the effect they can have on people and how difficult it can be to stop once someone is addicted, Carraway said.

September would primarily be used as the time to spread the word, including billboards, radio and newspaper ads and interviews, the health director said. 

Then, in October, the group could follow up with school assemblies and community forums, she said. Western Carolina University’s Center for the Study of Free Enterprise has already agreed to host and fund an event, Carraway said.

Last year’s Community Health Assessment reported that for the first time, during the 2012-16 time period, Jackson County’s unintentional poisoning rate rose above the regional and state averages.

During 2017, there were eight unintentional opioid related deaths in Jackson County, with 50 percent of them including heroin, fentanyl or fentanyl analogues. 

In Jackson County, 47 percent of the population reported that their lives have been negatively affected by substance abuse (either their own or someone else’s).