SALISBURY (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Salisbury Police will soon be putting more surveillance cameras in high drug overdose areas around the city.

It comes as a byproduct of a $51,500 grant from the Rowan County United Way, an effort to cut down on the county’s disproportionately high overdose rates.

Data from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services shows Rowan County emergency rooms experienced 64 visits for opioid overdoses in the first four months of this year. That’s up from 55 visits at the same time last year.

“It’s tough to think about, why is Salisbury facing these issues so much more than other communities?,” said Rowan County United Way Executive Director Jenny Lee. “It’s really hard to conceptualize that, but the reality is, it’s here.”

NCDHHS’s latest data also shows the county overdose rate is nearly twice the state’s average for both opioid overdose deaths and general medication/drug overdose deaths.

“In 2022, one gentleman alone that was arrested had more than 42,000 doses of fentanyl on him,” said Lee. “Our total population here in Rowan County is roughly 145,000. 42,000 doses of fentanyl, that’s dangerous.”

To try to bring these troubling statistics down, county leaders are trying to cut back on crime as relates to drug use, and then offer help to those suffering from addiction.

The Salisbury Police Department was awarded its first batch of money for security cameras in 2019. With this new grant, they’ll be able to add more cameras to their arsenal.

“It is prevention in a way, but it’s more response-type work,” said Lee.

In the coming years, the United Way also hopes to bring a first-of-its-kind detox and behavioral health center to the county. The organization has already set aside $100,000 in seed money. The diversion center would take the place of emergency room visits for overdoses and mental health crises.

“As social workers, we often say we want to work ourselves out of a job. But the truth is, we know that this diversion center will not save everyone. But it’s a start,” said Lee.