Stanly commissioners delay health board appts., reject hiring of opioid funding facilitator

ALBEMARLE — The Stanly County Board of Commissioners postponed decisions on appointments to the Consolidated Human Services board and declined to hire a facilitator for opioid settlement funding strategic planning at its Oct. 16 meeting. 

Health Department Director David Jenkins presented, and the commissioners voted 6-1 to delay CHS appointments until their next meeting. Commissioner Patty Crump motioned to table the appointments, with Commissioner Peter Asciutto casting the only dissenting vote.

The terms of five general public members and one social worker on the CHS board, set to expire on Nov. 6, were previously discussed at the Oct. 5 CHS meeting. The Stanly County Health Department and Department of Social Services boards merged into the CHS board in 2017, now comprising 21 members.

The board recommended appointing Sherry Poplin, Georgette Edgerton, Kristi Small, Larry Gibson and Beth Thomas for four-year terms ending in 2027, after reviewing their updated applications. 

CHS board Chair Jann Lowder said she will not seek reappointment, and Dr. Amy Jordan and Kenneth Chambers have resigned from the board. 

Lowder later addressed the board’s unanimous recommendation to contract with Dr. Shanta Dube, a professor of public health at Wingate University, as a strategic planning facilitator for opioid settlement funding. Dube is also working with Union County on its funding strategy and has over a decade of experience a professor and doctor of public health at Wingate University, is also currently coordinating with Union County to assist with its funding strategy and has over a decade of experience with the Centers for Disease Control.

“Be assured the Board of Health and Human Services wants to do what it can to prevent deaths from overdoses and fentanyl and any other harmful substances,” Lowder said. “We all know drug disorders and addictions cost lives, hurt our families, interrupt our neighborhoods, cost the people in our county, and are a threat to the quality of life for all. Contracting with the facilitator is not new to county administration. In fact, for many years facilitators have been used for county-wide projects.”

However, the commissioners voted 5-2 vote against the request for Dube’s three-month contract salary of $15,000, suggesting the funds could be better spent elsewhere. 

“My concern is that $15,000 would go to help six or seven people that might miss the help if we give it to a doctor that really probably doesn’t need the money,” Commissioner Brandon King said.

Commissioners Bill Lawhon, Trent Hatley, King and Crump joined Vice Chairman Mike Barbee in voting against the motion, while Chairman Scott Efird and Commissioner Asciutto supported it.

Asciutto expressed concern about potential mismanagement of the opioid settlement funding without a facilitator or task force.

“I’m worried if we don’t set this up right, we could have hundreds of thousands of dollars going to the wrong people because we don’t have a process in place to evaluate and to vet people,” he said.

The commissioners’ next regular meeting is scheduled for Nov. 6 at 6 p.m. in the Gene McIntyre Meeting Room at Stanly County Commons.