Apex Mayor Launches Substance Misuse Task Force

Members of the Apex Mayor's Substance Misuse Task Force are Danelle Louder, Victoria Carter, Tahira Hyman, Jacques Gilbert, Dr. Karen Barbee, Brenda Steen, Hollan Steen and Kevin O’Brien. Jayden Fairclough is not pictured.

Apex Mayor Jacques Gilbert announced on Monday, Feb. 1, the creation of the Mayor’s Substance Misuse Task Force, a community-led effort comprised of eight individuals passionate about addressing the growing problem of substance misuse and its impact on individuals, families, law enforcement and the community.

Substance abuse or misuse is formally defined as the continued misuse of any mind-altering substance that severely affects a person’s physical and mental health, social situation and responsibilities. It is often not openly discussed, and there are limited resources within the Apex community to support someone battling with substance misuse.

The task force would like to change that.

“Substance misuse impacts many families in our community,” Gilbert said. “We must work toward removing the wall of shame and opening the door to awareness, conversations, and resources to families in our community.”

Task force co-founder, Hollan Steen grew up in Apex, but moved to Asheville, N.C., in 2018 to seek help for his addiction to drugs and alcohol. After two years “clean and sober” Steen approached Gilbert with the idea that Apex could become a community of hope for others battling substance misuse and invited several members of the Apex community to join the team.

There are seven other task force members including two Apex police officers, Victoria Carter and Jayden Fairclough. Two subject matter experts, Dr. Karen Barbee, owner and CEO of Renaissance Wellness Services, LLC and Danelle Louder, the assistant clinical director, are also serving on the team. Pastor Kevin O’Brien has been in recovery for 20 years and coaches, mentors and guides through his non-profit, One Step Ministry. Tahira Hyman is in the process of creating Opioids to Rest, a nonprofit organization, and Brenda Steen is Hollan’s mother and the task force’s project and communications manager.

“Recovery is absolutely possible, but it is a lot harder if you try to do it alone,” said Hollan Steen. “I want people struggling in Apex to know that they are not alone. There are people and resources willing and able to help.”

The mission of the Mayor’s Substance Misuse Task Force is to provide education, resources and hope for those affected by substance misuse by creating awareness of the growing substance misuse crisis and its impact on individuals, families, law enforcement and the community.

They will provide resources for counseling, treatment and recovery options and will promote on-going education, prevention strategies and partnerships with affiliated organizations.

“We will aim to identify and implement better ways to provide hope to those in need,” said Gilbert. “Inviting diverse and passionate members of our community and professionals to the table is the way forward.”

The task force plans to hold a virtual community forum in early March. This will be an opportunity for the public to learn more about the task force members and their goals. The event will include a question and answer segment allowing the Apex community to share thoughts and concerns about substance misuse in Apex.

For information visit apexnc.org/1540/Mayors-Substance-Misuse-Task-Force.

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