Category Archives: Social Issues

Opioid Crisis Presents Alarming Challenge to both County and Country

Savanna Harris, Staff Writer

The opioid crisis is an issue that is becoming more and more prevalent here in our country. In 2016, there were over 63,600 overdose deaths in the United States alone, and more than two million people here are thought to be dependant on opioids, which are defined as drugs that replicate the pain-relieving effects of opium, such as morphine and oxycodone.

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Photo Credit: Savanna Harris From left to right, Trey Robinson, Jarrod McCraw, Lt. Brian Huncke

In order to raise awareness about this increasingly worrisome situation, the Batte Center here at Wingate University hosted a Lyceum this past Sunday, March 18, the third Lyceum in what is being called the Engaged Citizenship Series.

Throughout the program, a panel of ten speakers in total shared compelling information, as well as personal stories, regarding the crisis. Eddie Cathey of the Union County Sheriff’s Department began by saying, “We cannot arrest our way out of this.”

One major cause for this seemingly sudden crisis is the evolution of drugs that people are using. They have changed from what is expected, such as heroin and cocaine, to substances like bath salts and counterfeit pharmaceuticals.  

The main reason for this change is research chemicals, which are chemicals used by scientists specifically for research and scientific purposes. They are more toxic and therefore more dangerous than other drugs, and due to their scientific necessity, can cheaply and easily be ordered online. Ann Hamlin, who worked as a forensic scientist for more than 30 years, summarized this perfectly by giving the statement, “The normal rules do not apply anymore.”

In order to provide a personal aspect, Wesley Keziah, who is a former addict, and Stephanie Cox, whose son died of an overdose, spoke next. Wesley described the way his addiction began with a prescription for oxycodone following back surgery. By age 19, he had transitioned to using heroin.

According to him, “It was normal to be high.” He went on to say that he was in and out of the Union County legal system more than 80 times, and that he tried to get help but was never sure where to go for it, and that he overall felt misinformed about the true consequences of drug use. Thankfully, however, he is now three and a half years sober, is married with four children, and teaches addiction ministry.

Stephanie Cox then told the heartbreaking story of her son, Trenton Phillips’ death. On May 12, 2015, he died of a heroin overdose. She recounted how they thought that Trenton’s addiction was under control, but went on to say, “I was fatally naive.”

Wesley and Trenton’s stories were both local. Many people who attended the Lyceum, including myself, were surprised to discover how strongly the opioid crisis is affecting not only our country, but Union County as well.

In 2017, there were 372 drug-related arrests in Union County, and the number of arrests and deaths continue to rise as the years pass. Contrary to popular belief, the most prevalent age group these arrests and deaths are occuring in is not young adults, but rather people age 50 and over.

However, the problem is beginning to be seen in young people and in schools. According to Jarrod McCraw of Union County Public Schools, there are approximately 43,000 students in the county, and school officials are seeing alcohol, marijuana, and Xanax frequently appear among them.

Abusing these substances can lead to the abuse of those that are even more damaging, as well as acting as a gateway for other crimes, such as stealing, human trafficking, driving while under the influence, and murder. Trey Robinson, who is the Union County District Attorney, said that, “Our courts are filled with drug-related cases.”

Nevertheless, all hope is not lost. Measures are being taken at both a local and state level to combat and end this crisis. Operation Medicine Drop is in place for people to properly dispose of prescription pills that are no longer needed.

An opioid crisis hotline is being proposed. A nasal spray called NARCAN, which is an emergency Naloxone treatment for overdoses, is now in use. This is greatly beneficial, seeing as in order for a doctor to administer Suboxone and Methadone, which are other overdose treatments, they are required to receive special training and are therefore few and far between.

Additionally, Representative Craig Horn of North Carolina House District 68 said that they are working to limit the length of time that drugs are prescribed to five to seven days maximum, thus reducing the number of pills prescribed annually. In 2016 in North Carolina, this number was 555,000,000.

They are also trying to get rid of prescription pads and lessen the number of prescription drug commercials that are legally allowed to be shown on television. All in all, remarkable efforts are being made towards bringing this crisis to an end.

Edited by: Brea Childs

Opinion: Changing Americans’ Attitudes on Drug Policy

Amanda Alling, Staff Writer

The problem to be discussed here is one that requires a radical shift in not only foreign and domestic policy, but more specifically a deviation in perception of substance abuse. For far too long, we as Americans have viewed the consumption of drugs in a negative light – as a vice. And while undoubtedly drugs can, and often do, weaken societal structures and ruin the lives of individuals, they are also powerless until they enter the bloodstream.

The issue in our current American drug crises is one of not only supply from places such as Latin American, but also – and this is a topic that we as Americans tend to ignore or attempt to wish away – a problem of domestic demand.

The United States is currently the largest consumer of narcotics in the world, and regardless of what the current administration believes, symbolically shunning our neighbors to the south via the construction of some wall along the southern border will not solve our current ills.

So what do we do? How do we “solve” this? There are three current strategies used domestically: prevention, treatment, and enforcement.

Prevention programs typically target elementary aged children, but studies show the methods are largely ineffective. Treatment programs are after-the-fact mechanisms, and have been proven to be the most efficient tool for combating substance abuse. The last element to current domestic drug policy is that of enforcement – targeting users and sellers. However, increased incarceration has not stopped the illegal flow of narcotics.

Leaders of Latin American countries are urging the United States to change the attitude about consumption. In the 2011 report provided by the Global Commission on Drug Policy, former President of Brazil Fernando Henrique Cardoso suggested that there be a shift in global drug policy to treat “drug addiction as a health issue, reducing drug demand through educational initiatives and legally regulating rather than criminalizing.”

The argument for legal regulation maintains that the elimination of the “illicit” term that precedes “substance” would help to reduce cartel related violence by replacing criminal markets with formal ones. However, that in and of itself would not “end” or “solve” our drug crisis– the consumption of hard drugs would still remain an issue.

Decriminalization may end some stigmatization that comes with substance abuse, and governments who try such policies could see an increase in abusers seeking effective treatment.

For the last thirty years, the United States has spent, on average, about two thirds of its anti-drug resources on the supply-side, focusing the war on drugs inside of Latin America rather than domestically. And here’s the kicker: while the budget for supply-side solutions continues to grow every year, demand-side drug policy expenditures have essentially remained stagnant.

There are no easy answers, but at the very least we should rethink our strategy here. It’s halftime in the war on drugs, and our coaches need to make adjustments.

Edited by: Brea Childs

Homicide across from campus causes schoolwide lockdown

Keyana Daye, Staff Writer

Wingate students started their Monday afternoon just like any other until the sound of a siren was played from the bell tower. A lockdown had begun. Earlier that morning the Union County law enforcement had responded to a report of a shooting on Jerome Street, which is across from Wingate University.

Once Campus Safety was notified, the University Crisis Management Team mobilized and the University initiated lockdown procedure. All students were notified to seek shelter to the closest building. The lockdown lasted an hour long until the University was advised by law enforcement to resume normal operations while law enforcement remained on campus. On Tuesday morning the suspect, Douglas Cleveland Colson, turned himself into custody of the Wingate police department.

The homicide that prompted a lockdown on Wingate campus happened shortly after 10am, Monday morning. The victim, Prentis Robinson, was live streaming on Facebook Live after leaving the Wingate Police Department from reporting cellular theft.

On his way back to his home, Douglas Colson appeared who he then exchanged a few words with. There are reports that Robinson had suspected Colson of drug dealing. Shortly afterwards shots were fired and a few minutes later he was pronounced dead on the scene. This all took place less than a mile away from Wingate University.

While the homicide took place approximately at 10 a.m., the lockdown on Wingate campus didn’t take place until a little after 11 a.m. Some students reported that they thought it was odd since they had been seeing helicopters in the sky over campus.

And there were some students, like Jessica Daniels, that had heard Wingate Elementary School was on lockdown around 11 a.m. When Daniels heard about this and saw helicopters outside, she decided to call Wingate Campus Safety to check on things.

She reported that a woman answered the phone but reacted as if it were the first time she had heard of there being an shooting. After a few minutes of being on hold, the woman said, “So, someone was shot in the area, but it’s not like there is a killer on the loose.”, and according to Jessica Daniels it was less than 10 minutes later that the lockdown was called for.

As soon as the siren was played, it would be expected that everyone who heard the siren would move into the nearest building and turn off all the lights. However, according to most students, nobody knew what to do or even knew what the siren meant.

Some students reported that people kept walking around as the siren played and that even 10 minutes into the lockdown some professors were still lecturing. And according to most students, the general census was that nobody knew that the lockdown had started until they received text alerts from Wingate Campus Safety. Also during the campus-wide lockdown, many students reported that they were in rooms that did not have locks.

Many students expressed concern and were confused as to why it took so long from the initial incident to initiate the lockdown. In response to these questions, Chief of Wingate Campus Safety, Michael Easley, stated that Wingate Campus Safety was currently in the process of testing new locks and that by the end of next week they should have more locks to test.

And in response to the confusion of the wait in between the incident and the lockdown he stated, “I was not made aware until approximately 11 a.m. by the Wingate police department. I, then assembled the Crisis Management team and we analyzed the situation and sent out the first request for a lockdown at 11:30.”

He also reported that the public was able to know about the incident before Campus Safety and the police because the victim was live streaming on Facebook. Once the incident was analyzed, the Crisis Management team and Wingate police department was able to initiate action.

In response to the incident, an email was sent out to students on Tuesday afternoon detailing that the suspect was in custody and summarized the lockdown procedure that took place that Monday afternoon.

The Crisis Management team and Campus Safety are assessing their response and are currently accepting feedback from students, faculty, and parents. A listening session for students was held with the SGA forum and individual training will be held for Wingate employees in response to the incident.

Edited by: Brea Childs

Photo credit: Flickr

Registrar Maria Taylor introduces the One Month Book Club to faculty and staff

Aleah Cady, Staff Writer

At the suggestion of Registrar Maria Taylor, faculty and staff at Wingate University have been participating in the new “One-Month Book Club.”

The club meets twice a week, on Wednesdays at 1 p.m. in the Cornwell Room at the Ethel K. Smith Library and at noon Fridays in the McGee Center conference room.  It’s open to all faculty and staff.

Taylor suggested the idea for the book club to the vice provost, Nancy Randall, after reading the 2017 Christian literature book, “A Bigger Table: Building Messy, Authentic, and Hopeful Spiritual Community,” written by North Carolina pastor, John Pavlovitz.

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Photo Credit: Pavlovitz site

The book, which focuses on inclusivity and diversity in the church as well as other settings, inspired Maria, and she wanted to share John’s message with others. “The book teaches a very agenda-free, inclusive, authentic method of inclusivity.” Maria says. “He speaks about radical hospitality, and making people of all backgrounds feel at home.”

According to the summary on Google Books, Pastor John Pavlovitz of North Raleigh Community Church tackles topics “the Christian community has been earnestly wrestling with… LGBT inclusion, gender equality, racial tensions, and global concerns.”

The book has received mixed reviews, due to its progressive, and arguably controversial style. As a pastor of over 20 years, John has been devoted to social justice, and breaking down “walls” between people of different faiths, religions, ethnicities, races, sexual orientations, genders, etc. On his website, he describes himself as “a 20-year ministry veteran trying to figure out how to love people well and to live-out the red letters of Jesus.”

“I thought this would be a great book to open up discussion, and talk with faculty and staff about something other than work. Our student body is very diverse, so I feel that as faculty, it’s important to have open discussions about the differences in students, and ourselves.” Maria said.

She is open to students being a part of the club in the future, and encourages them to read Pavlovitz’ book as well. She is very interested in the idea of  the club continuing next year.

On February 21st, Pastor Pavlovitz will be on campus. He will be eating lunch with members of The One-Month Book Club and discussing the book. That evening at 7 p.m., he will be the speaker for a faith lyceum in the McGee Theater, which is open to faculty, staff, and students.

The required attire for attendance is business casual. He will speak about his book, and his beliefs on “building a bigger table.” All are welcome to attend, and hear John’s message.

A Bigger Table is available for purchase from Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Target, and his personal website. He has a new book being released this year.

Edited by: Brea Childs