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5 Things to Know: Opioid Public Health Crisis Announced Amongst Black Youth

...and four more stories from Oct. 2-7, 2023

Kenny Robinson stands at a podium declaring the public health crisis, behind him stands the CMPD chief in uniform, a sheriff in uniform and Greg Jackson in street clothes
Kenny Robinson addresses the media at a press conference where he and others declared a public health crisis on Friday. (Photo by Ryan Pitkin)

Opioid Public Health Crisis Announced Amongst Black Youth

Law enforcement officials joined community activists Kenny Robinson and Greg Jackson on Friday to declare a public health crisis related to the rise in opioid-related overdoses amongst Black youth.

Robinson, founder of Freedom Fighting Missionaries, is spearheading the effort to raise awareness and connect local agencies and institutions to confront this crisis. He said he’s attended three funerals for opioid overdose victims in the last 60 days, all of which were caused by drugs that had been laced with fentanyl.

According to CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings, who also spoke at Friday’s press conference, the city has seen 137 deaths due to opioid overdoses thus far in 2023, nearly double the amount of lives lost to homicide during that same time period.

“Fentanyl has been a problem in our community and everybody’s community, no matter your color, but definitely for those that have been suffering in the Black community,” said Greg Jackson, founder of Heal Charlotte. “We want to highlight that unapologetically — saying that with a lot of aggressiveness, assertiveness and force — that it needs to be addressed. It needs to be a public health issue, a public health crisis, and the city must address it as such. Just like we address racism, just like we address gun violence, this is a problem that needs
to be addressed also.”

Much of the efforts to combat the ongoing public health crisis on Friday centered around the overdose-reversing nasal spray Narcan. Robinson said he is in talks with Mecklenburg County Public Health to implement a program that would administer the medicine to any resident free of charge.

If implemented, the program could be funded by a portion of the $32,457,588 Mecklenburg County was awarded in a multi-state opioid lawsuit settlement from February 2022.

The same four men at the press conference declaring a public health crisis
Mecklenburg County Sheriff McFadden (at podium) joined (from right) CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings, Heal Charlotte founder Greg Jackson and Freedom Fighting Missionaries founder Robinson at the press conference. (Photo by Ryan Pitkin)

Sheriff Garry McFadden stated that deputies and staff inside the Central Detention Center in Uptown have saved lives with Narcan. The department’s communications department later told Queen City Nerve that, since January, the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office has “used 57 Narcan containers and administered them to 21 people” in the jail.

“We can save more lives if we have more of this,” said McFadden, his hand on a box of Narcan, at Friday’s press conference, “in every house, on every shelf, like Tylenol to save lives … The saying that Nancy Reagan had is past. ‘Just say no’ is not good enough. We have to say yes to Narcan.”

City Council Exploring Recriminalization of Certain City Ordinances

During Monday night’s Charlotte City Council committee discussions, Victoria Watlington with the Housing, Safety and Community Committee said her committee had heard a presentation from CMPD about quality of life concerns in Uptown, where a group of 30 Fourth Ward residents gathered at an August city council meeting to voice frustrations about public drinking, urination and defecation.

The committee tasked CMPD with creating a full report on what ordinances may be considered for “recriminalization” within the next 30 days.

The decriminalization of certain city ordinances was the result of a state mandate in 2022 that ordered cities to re-specify which of their respective code violations would be pursued through criminal means and which violations would be pursued through civil means, which council discussed in February 2022.

Council members on Monday discussed the importance of not overreaching so as to criminalize poverty. During the August meeting, Mayor Pro Tem Braxton Winston pointed out that the main library branch has been torn down and the ongoing construction has left many of our neighbors who experience houselessness without a public bathroom to use in Uptown.

On Monday, council discussed more short-term solutions such as the urgent need for more public bathrooms in Uptown. The city is currently exploring options for deploying such bathrooms with its local partners.

Police Officer Shoots and Kills Man in West End

Police shot and killed a man near the Five Points area in the Historic West End on Wednesday night.

According to CMPD, officers responded to a shots fired call on Frazier Avenue off West Trade Street at about 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday and encountered a man that matched the description given to police. According to a statement from CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings, the first officer on the scene asked the man to show his hands but he began to walk away.

Jennings claimed that the officer then noticed the man was holding a gun and that “the firearm was pointed at the officer on at least one or two occasions.” The officer reportedly ordered the suspect to drop the gun before feeling an “imminent threat” and firing on the subject. Medic transported the subject to a nearby hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.

Queen City Nerve will be requesting any body-cam footage related to this incident and following up on the case with further reporting.

Animal Services Waives Adoption Fees for October

Charlotte Mecklenburg Animal Care & Control (AC&C), working amidst a crisis of overcrowding at its shelter in northwest Charlotte that has lasted for over a year, announced Friday that it will waive all fees related to adoption of pets from its shelter through the end of October in an effort to make room in its shelters and prevent more overcrowding.

The announcement on Friday came in partnership with Adopt a Pet, an organization that helps animal shelters, humane societies, SPCAs, pet rescue groups, and pet adoption agencies advertise their homeless pets to millions of adopters for free.

In addition to covering adoption fees, Adopt a Pet will be offering post adoption guidance in the form of free new pet essentials and materials throughout October.

A woman kneeling in front of kennels petting multiple puppies
Animal Care & Control will waive all ped adoption fees through October. (Courtesy of AC&C)

Already in crisis mode, AC&C recently lost access to 36 kennels at its shelter due to renovations, making the situation all the more dire.

The two partnering organizations will host a celebratory For the Love of Pets event on Oct. 14 from 11 a.m.–5 p.m. This event, which is free and open to the public, will give prospective adopters the chance to meet animals and help them find their forever homes. All adoption fees will be waived at the event, and staff and volunteers will be onsite to help adopters find the right match. It will take place at the Animal Care & Control shelter located at 8315 Byrum Drive.

City to Hold Public Forum on First Social District

City Council on Monday will host its first public forum regarding the formation of a social district more than two years after the North Carolina General Assembly passed legislation allowing for municipalities to create certain areas that allow for off-premise alcohol consumption within the boundaries of the district.

On Monday, council will host a public forum to hear residents’ feedback on the proposed Plaza Midwood Social District. The district would run along Central Avenue from Louise Avenue and 10th Street to Morningside Drive
in the east/west directions and Chesterfield Avenue to near Hamorton Place along Pecan Avenue in the north/south direction.

The proposed Plaza Midwood Social District boundaries. (Courtesy of City of Charlotte)

The district proposes to operate every day from 10 a.m.-10 p.m.

The Plaza Midwood Merchants Association will fund the initial setup of the district and any ongoing expenditures related to the district, according to Monday’s agenda. The district intends to utilize reusable stainless-steel cups with the required logos in a partnership with Envision Charlotte.

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