First community walk connects people with resources to combat substance use disorder

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 10, 2020

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — In its first monthly community outreach walk on Wednesday, members of the county’s Post-Overdose Response Team provided locals with 26 backpacks of an opioid reversal drug and winter supplies in an effort to connect with locals who may need support for substance use disorder.

The walk is part of an ongoing effort by the Post-Overdose Response Team, or PORT, to mitigate the opioid crisis by connecting with members of the local community to refer them to the resources available. PORT serves as the first point-of-contact for locals following an overdose.

Members of PORT, along with several volunteers, walked along East Innes St. Wednesday afternoon to provide locals with backpacks filled with the opioid-reversal drug Narcan, hats, gloves, socks, razors, combs/brushes, soaps and other supplies. The walk began at Rowan County EMS Station 85, located at 123 N. Shaver St., and extended to Towne Creek Commons on East Innes Street.

Natalie Arrington, PORT’s harm reduction program manager, said that particular stretch is a hotspot for the community’s homeless population. The purpose of providing those supplies is to provide the life-saving drug Narcan, make face-to-face contact with locals in an effort to open the door for relationships and trust-building as well as connect them to nearby resources.

When you provide people with something, they’re more willing to talk to you, she added.

PORT had 31 backpacks of supplies to give away on Wednesday, but ended its walk around 5 p.m. During that time, Arrington said they were able to meet a few new people.

“I think we had a pretty good turnout for our first go-round,” Arrington said. “This was a great opportunity for PORT to meet some new faces, connect with the community and get our names out there.”

Chris Smith, a Lexington resident, was among the volunteers who walked with PORT. Smith works with Guilford County Solution to the Opioid Problem, or GCSTOP, and is currently a graduate student at the University of North Carolina who plans to work in the substance use disorder field upon graduation.

Smith said it seems that Rowan County is doing a good job at working toward the opioid problem, but he wants to continue networking and expanding such work to other communities.

“I wanted to lend a hand,” Smith said about Wednesday’s walk. “There’s not enough folks out there trying to fight the opioid crisis.”

Mike McGaffney, who moved to Salisbury from New Jersey, also volunteered help on Wednesday. McGaffney said he’s participated in similar walks in New Jersey, Los Angeles, Atlantic City and New York City.

McGaffney, however, is no stranger to the area. He attended South Rowan High School and has friends here who are in recovery. McGaffney said he’s also in the process of establishing a nonprofit called Recovery Angel Warriors, or RAW, to “bridge the gap” for those who struggle with homelessness, substance use disorder and mental illness.

Wednesday’s walk was the first one planned. PORT will continue the walks once a month on Wednesdays, from 2 to 5 p.m.

Arrington said PORT is working with local churches and the health department to collect donations. Supples can be dropped off at the county health department, located at 1811 E Innes St.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

About Natalie Anderson

Natalie Anderson covers the city of Salisbury, politics and more for the Salisbury Post. She joined the staff in January 2020 after graduating from Louisiana State University, where she was editor of The Reveille newspaper. Email her at natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com or call her at 704-797-4246.

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