Saving Lives Task Force brings resources, information to Avon

Published 11:07 am Sunday, February 18, 2024

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The message was simple: “You Are Not Alone.”

The Dare County Saving Lives Task Force brought people and organizations that can help overcome addiction and trauma to St. John United Methodist Church in Avon in January.

Wally Overman, vice chairman of the Dare County Board of Commissioners and co-chair of the Saving Lives Task Force, is leading the effort along with Roxana Ballinger, community outreach director for Dare County Health and Human Services and co-chair of the Saving Lives Task Force.

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Eight speakers came to the podium offering services.

Brett Dunning, Director, Changing Tides Oceanfront Treatment Center

252-715-3905, Mile Post 5 on Beach Road, Kitty Hawk

Services: Assessments, screening, therapy, structured living, assistance, monitoring. Sober living environment. The program tries to get clients to understand addiction and move toward acceptance and forgiveness. The program does a lot of work with families. Dunning said “families suffer as much” as the clients.

Holly West, OBX Nar Anon, Leader

111 W. Carlton Ave, Kill Devil Hills, 252-489-7778,

Nar-Anon is a 12-step program for friends and family members of those who are affected by someone else’s addiction.

The group meets every Thursday night at 7 p.m. at 111 Carlton Ave, Kill Devil Hills (upstairs) or join by Zoom or Zoom call-in. For more information, contact

“We help families struggling with addiction,” said West. “I know there’s stigma. Asking for help is not a weakness. It’s a strength.”

Theresa Greene, Cross Roads, OBX/Peer Support Specialist

Scott Haslar, Cross Roads, OBX/SMART Recovery Leader/Peer Support Specialist

111 West Carlton Ave., Kill Devil Hills, 252-455-2510,

“Cross Roads is Christ-centered outreach offering discernment, guidance, and objective planning for those who desire to change the course of their lives.” Said Greene, “we get people to appropriate places.”

Haslar runs an alternative to a 12-step program. He said, “trauma is the gateway to addiction.”

Richard Martin, Dare County Recovery Court

Martin Clinical Services, LLC, 2400 N. Croatan Hwy., Kill Devil Hills, 252-202-7636,

At the Town Hall, Martin represented Kevin Dixon, the director of Dare County Recovery Court.

Martin quickly said “it is recovery court not drug court.”

Once a month, Recovery Court is convened by Judge Jerry Tillett. Before appearing before the judge, a drug test is administered. The person assigned to court meets with a team and regularly with people in probation and parole. “There are consequences if you don’t work through your recovery plan,” said Martin.

At the 2023 State of the County, Board of Commissioners Chairman Robert L. Woodard introduced Autumn Price, who had finished her 18 months in Recovery Court. This is some of her story shared a year ago:

When she arrived in Dare County, she lived in the Oxford House and loved it. She thought she was going to stay sober. At 100 days, she crashed and burned and relapsed.

At that point, she thought her life was over because felonies don’t allow people like her to have the jobs that she had. “My kids were in foster care.”

She told the audience of 200 people, “I was couch surfing, hotel surfing and living in a car – until I didn’t have a car.”

She was offered the opportunity to go into Dare County Recovery Court as a result of her charges. “I didn’t really know what to expect because I knew other county versions of Recovery Court, and they didn’t really leave a good taste in my mouth, but I did not want to go to jail, and I knew I wanted to get sober and stay sober. So I entered into Recovery Court.”

Once she entered Dare County’s Recovery Court, Price was offered the support and resources that she needed in order to help get her life back on track, stated an article about the 2023 State of the County.

Donnie Varnell, Investigator, Dare County Sheriff’s Office


Varnell has extensive experience in law enforcement, particularly the drug scene. He started in 1988. “People were dying,” he said at the Town Hall meeting. “It was all prescription pain meds,” said Varnell. Agents were trained. “People just needed help.”

“Heroin and fentanyl are the biggest things on the street now,” reported Varnell, who praised the work of Jesse Ruby with the needle exchange at Community Care Clinic of Dare and distributing test kits for fentanyl. “So many people are being saved,” said Varnell.

He also praised the Dare County jail employees who are working constantly to help. Mental health treatment is now offered in the jail on telehealth.

Jesse Ruby, Dare County Health and Human Services, Recovery and Overdose Support Services (ROSS)/Peer Support Specialist


Ruby is helping those struggling with substance use and misuse; providing harm reduction; and the syringe program. His program has 2,338 fentanyl test kits and 2,556 packages of Narcan nasal spray.

Susan Lee, Leader of Be Resilient OBX, Special Projects Volunteer with Children and Youth Partnership for Dare County

252-441-0614, 534 Ananias Dare St., Manteo

“We know Hatteras Island is a resilient place. People help people.” Lee offers workshops to provide training in the community about adverse childhood and community experiences and trauma. The training leads to a community of resilience.

Narcan nasal spray and fentanyl test strips are available at Fair Haven United Methodist Church in Rodanthe in an outside box; and in Avon at St. John United Methodist Church, also in an outside box. The pharmacies in Avon and in Hatteras have a supply.

The “You Are Not Alone” program on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024 followed the St. John United Methodist Church Thursday night free dinner. That dinner happens every Thursday, starting at 5 p.m., through March 4.