DAVIDSON COUNTY — Commissioners in Davidson County are continuing an ongoing mission to mitigate the impact of drug addiction in the area, joining in a national recognition of the war on drugs.

Commissioner James Shores spoke during this week’s regularly-scheduled board meeting to raise awareness for Red Ribbon Week, which was established to take a symbolic stand against drug use.

“Substance abuse stands as one of the major challenges our county faces in securing a safe and healthy future for our children,” Shores said. “There is hope in winning the war on drugs, and that hope lies in education and drug demand reduction.”

The week of Oct. 23 through Oct. 31 was designated as National Red Ribbon Week and is celebrated annually to show support for a drug-free environment. A red ribbon was chosen as a symbol to commemorate the efforts of Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, a DEA agent who was murdered in the line of duty.

In 1985, Camarena was tortured by drug traffickers he was investigating in Mexico. According to a website maintained by the DEA, getsmartaboutdrugs.gov, the initial tribute to Camarena was established by his high school friend Henry Lozano and Congressman Duncan Hunter. These two helped create “Camarena clubs” and the wearing of a red ribbon to represent opposition to drugs.

The first National Red Ribbon Week was in 1988, when then President Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy served as honorary chairpersons. The National Family Partnership continues to coordinate a campaign for families, schools and communities across the nation each year.

Wearing red ribbons is also meant to honor the sacrifice of all others who have lost their lives in the fight against drugs.

This recognition follows a resolution in August to sign an agreement with a majority of the counties in North Carolina in the fight against opioid manufacturers. Davidson joined 53 other counties at that time in signing a Memorandum of Agreement to maximize North Carolina’s share of a litigation agreement in the wake of the nation’s opioid crisis.

In North Carolina, there were 76 counties and eight municipalities which had independent lawsuits in federal court against drug manufacturers and distributors as of August, according to Davidson County Attorney Chuck Frye.

North Carolina will receive an estimated $850 million in funding over a span of 18 years from this agreement for opioid remediation. Statewide, 80% of this money goes directly to local counties and larger municipalities for treatment, prevention and education.

Over the summer, North Carolina State Attorney Josh Stein announced a $26 billion agreement between several states with pending lawsuits against pharmaceutical distributors Cardinal, McKesson and Amerisource Bergen. It also included Johnson & Johnson and Purdue Pharma, which manufactured opioids.

The agreement would resolve thousands of claims from both state and local governments across the country, including Davidson County, which has filed lawsuits against the pharmaceutical companies in federal and state courts.

Last year, opioid overdose deaths rose to a record 93,000, an increase of nearly 30% over the prior year. From 2000 to 2019, more than 16,500 North Carolinians died from an accidental opioid overdose.

Staff writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 336-888-3578, or at kennedy@tvilletimes.com.

Staff writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 336-888-3578, or at kennedy@tvilletimes.com.