Bridgette Rhodes has a simple, eight-word message for Wayne County residents about the opioid epidemic — it’s here and it’s not going to leave.

“We want to have a conversation with the public and talk about this,” said the overdose prevention coordinator hired by Wayne County Health Department in December.

Funding for the position came through a grant received by the health department in June, which runs until the end of May.

The hope, she said, is that more funding can be secured to continue the message, a combination of education and training.

In the past few months, she has conducted several trainings for organizations, the public and law enforcement agencies.

“I have trained with Wayne County Sheriff’s Office, school resource officers, Partnership for Children and have training coming up with One-to-One with Youth, Waynesboro Family Clinic and having a sit-down meeting for Walmart to assist in a Wellness Day,” she said.

Her audiences have been receptive, she said, referencing a recent session for the Mount Olive Fire Department.

“It was well received, and I got good feedback,” she said. “It’s on the Mount Olive Fire Department Facebook page.

The topic is an important one and can be broken down into basic information, she said.

“It’s not assumed that everybody knows what an opioid is and what an opioid addiction is,” she said. “The addiction is not a moral issue, the addiction is a disease. It’s treatable but not curable.

“We talk about ways to prevent it, the risk factors, the symptoms and being able to recognize opioid addiction.”

Opioids and prescriptions can be highly addictive, Rhodes said, and there is no one demographic that is susceptible, be it age or socioeconomic group, race or gender.

In fact, youth are actually one of the more prevalent groups to be unwitting victims of the opioid epidemic, said Venessia Hill, a nurse and community relations specialist with Eastpointe, a behavioral health care organization that manages mental health, substance abuse and developmental disability services in a 10-county service area, including Wayne County.

“One of the most common ways they’ll get these pills is teens with sports injuries or teens and young adults getting their wisdom teeth taken out,” she said. “(They) have to have a pain medicine.”

That, as with any surgery, opens itself to the required need for pain medication, oftentimes resulting in a highly addictive medication being prescribed.

“It starts out simple and it just goes from there,” Rhodes said. “There was a 15-year-old in Raleigh. It was on the news a couple weeks ago. His parents found him dead in the middle of the night. He was an athlete. It starts out just that simple.

“Or you have an elderly person or a cancer patient. It’s happening more than we know.”

There is an antidote for those who overdose, a nasal spray called Narcan.

“It’s the first and only FDA-approved nasal spray for the reversal of opioid overdose, and it’s non-habit-forming,” she said. “It is safer, easier to use and (the person overdosing) can respond faster.

“It works within three to five minutes.”

The Narcan training is free, as is a Narcan kit, which includes two doses of the antidote, a brochure with instructions and a CPR shield.

“It’s for anybody that knows somebody or has somebody in their home (using opioids),” Rhodes said. “You want it located where you can find it and you can get to it and administer it.”

The next information and training session will be Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at The First Church, at 1100 The First Church Road. The event is free and open to the public.

Rhodes is available to lead free Narcan training to communities and organizations and can also make a complimentary Narcan kit available upon request. Contact her at 919-705-6539 or email bridgette.rhodes@waynegov.com.

The number for the Eastpointe call center is 800-913-6109.