Health department hires substance use and mental health program manager to combat opioid crisis

Published 12:09 am Thursday, March 16, 2023

SALISBURY — Hayley Edwards is the newest addition to the Rowan County Public Health Department’s team focused on decreasing the number of opioid overdoses and deaths in the county.

Edwards was hired as the substance use and mental health program manager, and will be in charge of overseeing the department’s substance use programs, including The HOPE Program, which is “a partnership between Rowan County Public Health, Rowan County Emergency Medical Services, and the Center for Prevention Services that provides supportive outreach to individuals who use opioids and/or at high risk of an opioid overdose.”

Edwards will make sure the program, as well as others in the future, runs smoothly. She will also provide strategic direction, collaborate with other agencies like United Way, and be in-charge of the administration side, which is essentially making sure the department and the team has all the necessary tools to do their jobs.

Starting out in healthcare in 2009 while living in Florida, Edwards moved to Rowan County in 2017 and got a job with Novant Health psychiatric care and counseling doing front-office work.

“This is where I got my foot in the door working with substance use and mental health, and from there I was able to work within Rowan County and surrounding counties getting to experience what the struggles were with the population that we serve,” Edwards said.

She has only been on the job for four weeks, but Edwards is already committed to making her team as effective as possible.

“My focus is really working on the internal team, building it, making sure all the pieces are in place and strengthening it,” Edwards said. “We do have a couple things we are working on for improving our data. I really just want to fine-tune the team, that way when we start growing and rolling things out we can do that to the best of our ability.”

As the health department introduces more programs and services, Edwards will be needed behind the scenes, making sure things are being run efficiently, especially when it comes to administrative work which is critical when it comes to program management.

Last year, the county received $15 million as part of the nationwide opioid settlements. The money will be spent over a 17-year period and be used to implement different strategies the department thinks are most effective to address the opioid epidemic, such as recovery support services, Naloxone distribution, post-overdose response teams and syringe service programs. Edwards will be instrumental in making sure the roll-out and follow through of these initiatives are successful.

“The administration of this is so massive,” said the health department director Alyssa Harris. “A lot of what Hayley is providing is both the strategic direction and the admin side…keeping up with all of it is going to be a lot.”

Previously, Edwards worked as a behavioral health program manager, where she learned the ins and outs of dealing with grants and building programs.

“That’s where I really got to see how you can have a hands-on effect of helping individuals in need,” she said. “So when I saw this position come across, especially overseeing the HOPE Program and the opportunity with the settlement, I thought ‘this is a passion of mine and this is an opportunity for me to really help individuals.'”