Charlotte has increase in overdoses, drinking during COVID

Watch your ‘wine o’clock.’ Charlotte has increased in overdoses, drinking during COVID

by Amanda Zhou, Charlotte Observer, April 22, 2020

Drug overdoses have increased in Charlotte, according to police, and addiction specialists say they’re concerned people are drinking too much alcohol and resorting to drugs while stuck at home.

Since March 26 — when Mecklenburg County began its stay-at-home order — CMPD has responded to 100 emergency calls about drug overdoses. That’s a 24% increase or around 20 additional calls compared to a similar time period last year, said CMPD spokesman Rob Tufano.

Out of the 100 calls, ten people died, he said.

Director of prevention and intervention at Anuvia, a substance abuse treatment center, Cindy Murphy said that resources and help is available. Prior to the pandemic, there had been a downward trend in overdoses, she said.

Additionally, many are turning to alcohol as a coping mechanism, which could turn into addictions for some, she said.

“I’m sure you’ve seen all the memes,” Murphy said. “‘It’s two o’clock somewhere. It’s wine o’clock somewhere.’”

The concern over substance abuse triggered by the coronavirus pandemic has been shared by other experts.

Coming out of the pandemic, addiction psychiatrist with Atrium Health William Wright said last week he expects new patients struggling with substance abuse as there is increased financial, medical and general stress.

Many of his patients are struggling with isolating, he said.

“We all are social beings …,” he said. “We need to be with other folks. We are not actually mean to live on an island.”

Wright is still seeing patients — both new and returning — remotely either over video conference or phone, he said. But there are other logistical things he’s still figuring out like how patients should take urine drug tests, a procedure the requires leaving a home.

Nevertheless, he emphasized that there is still “hope and treatment for those who need it … and did not realize the slippery slope of substance use as a coping strategy.”

According to Tufano, there has not been a spike in suicides and with bars and restaurants closed, there has not been any noticeable changes in DWI or drinking and driving charges.

However, that hasn’t stopped people from stocking up on alcohol at home. As of April 3, ABC stores have seen a 30% increase in sales compared a year ago, according to the Mecklenburg County ABC Commission.


Look up services close to your zip code on Cardinal Innovations Healthcare’s website,

The link provides information about substance abuse treatment help, medical services, assistance with housing, food and transportation, and more.

Those who are looking for Alcoholics Anonymous anonymous meetings can find ones in the Charlotte area on the Metrolina Intergroup website The site includes links to a variety of meetings including in-person, telephone and online.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.

Anuvia in Charlotte can be reached at 704-376-7447.

People in recovery find ways to meet under stay-at-home order

‘That magic moment.’ People in recovery find ways to meet under stay-at-home order

by Rick Bonnell, Charlotte Observer, April 2, 2020

For those in recovery, 12-step meetings are a source of calm and serenity in times of stress.

But during the new coronavirus pandemic, access to face-to-face meetings has plummeted. For instance, 40 of the 78 Alcoholics Anonymous meetings listed for metro Charlotte have been temporarily discontinued.

Those that remain must conform to rules restricting gatherings to 10 or fewer people, sitting at least six feet apart.

There are alternatives: Phone meetings. Online meetings. Video-chat meetings, such as Zoom conferencing. Those have existed for years for people recovering from addiction worldwide, whether it be for alcohol, drugs, gambling or other problems.

It’s essential for those in recovery not to isolate emotionally, even in times of stay-at-home orders.

“With all these changes — ‘When will I go back to work?’ ‘When will the kids go to school?’ ‘When will the bills get paid?’ — it’s very important people (in recovery) have that buffer zone” of staying connected, said Mackie Johnson, director of clinical services for Anuvia Prevention and Recovery in Charlotte.

A key resource locally, Johnson said, is the Metrolina Intergroup website, which serves Charlotte and surrounding communities. The site includes links to a variety of meetings: In-person, and also via telephone and online.

There is also a free mobile app called Meeting Guide. It uses your location to provide a list of meetings nearby. According to AA’s web site, the app lists more than 100,000 meetings worldwide and is updated twice daily.

Johnson said Anuvia and similar services in Charlotte can stay open as essential business under the state’s stay-at-home order. Johnson said assessment and counseling still continue for those in need.

For those looking to maintain their sobriety and mental well-being, Johnson had this advice:

▪ Maintain a routine. Johnson said it’s easy with most people working from home to get out of patterns that support mental and physical health, which is particularly dangerous for those in recovery. “Go to bed at the same time. Get up at the same time. Try to maintain the same diet,” Johnson said. “It’s very important you’re as routine as you can be in an unroutined world.”

▪ Exercise: Both the state and Mecklenburg County orders allow people to leave their homes to exercise; do so both to use energy productively and to not feel disconnected. “You see so many families out there. Kids on bikes,” Johnson said. “That’s uplifting to see.”

▪ Note the positives that still exist: Becoming preoccupied with the negative can threaten recovery. “There are a lot of good things going on right now — neighbors helping neighbors, assistance to the elderly,” Johnson said. “If you can gain that perspective, it changes a lot about your thinking.”

▪ Don’t allow yourself to isolate: Regardless of social-distancing, Johnson said the most important thing is not to become isolated by losing contact with support groups. “Depression, despair, isolation — not interacting with others is really dangerous,” Johnson said.


Those in recovery don’t have to assemble physically to meet. People who have tried alternatives like video conferencing say they are largely the same in value.

Stuart Watson, a former Charlotte television journalist, offered to speak with the Observer about his own substance abuse recovery experiences.

“There is a tendency to believe (during the COVID-19 crisis) that we are isolated and alone because we are being asked to stay at home,” Watson said. “But when I was really screwed up from substances, I could be in the middle of a party, surrounded by people, and feel completely isolated.

“Conversely, I can feel connected to the whole world of recovery” via alternative meetings.

Two weeks ago, as in-person meetings around Charlotte started closing, Watson helped organize a group of eight men in recovery who do a daily conference call.

“One guy is a health professional, so he is having to be out there on the front line. Some are in finance and they’re watching their plans — years and years of work — just evaporate,” Watson said of the stressors discussed.

“Guys will be in tears because they see what they’ve worked for slipping away. Then, all of a sudden, someone will mention making a list of five things you’re incredibly thankful for. And (tone) will shift. There will be that magic moment when guys see what they have, and not what they don’t have.”


Watson, who now owns a small media company producing podcasts, has participated in large-group recovery meetings as well, via video conferencing.

How well those go is contingent on leaders keeping order, since 100 or more people might participate remotely.

“Sometimes people will interrupt each other or talk over each other. It gets to be confusing. There needs to be a steady hand (in charge) because there will always be someone (with a microphone) not muted,” Watson said. “The technology can lead to distractions that would not happen if you are sitting in a room together.”

Even so, Watson said, there is a sense of burden-sharing in every form of recovery meeting that prevails.

“If you’ve never been to a 12-step meeting, there is an incredible sense of community — that is the secret sauce,” Watson said.

“My serenity, my peace of mind, my calm is connected to me saying, ‘Hey, what do you need? How can I be of help to you?’ ”

Thank you Mecklenburg County

We are grateful to Mecklenburg County Public Health for the support we received through a 2022 Grow Grant. The funding enabled us to offer classes in yoga and meditative journaling to individuals who were in our residential treatment program from April – June 2022.   

Anuvia Leadership Change

Anuvia, one of Charlotte’s largest substance abuse prevention and recovery agencies, announced that Executive Director Larry Snider is retiring from his position effective April 15, 2019. Valerie Kopetzky, associate executive director and CFO, has been appointed to the new title of chief executive officer at Anuvia effective upon Larry’s retirement. Larry retired from his position as deputy chief for the Investigative Division with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department on December 31, 2000. He joined the staff on January 2, 2001 and was appointed by Anuvia’s Board of Directors to the executive director position in June 2002. Larry shared, “it has been an honor and privilege to be a member of the Anuvia family the past 18 years!”

Under his leadership, the staffing level has grown from 61 to 158 employees, and the yearly budget has increased from $3,899,705 to $13,555,346. To enhance the impact Anuvia has in our community, Anuvia has added numerous services to include substance abuse adolescent treatment, comprehensive outpatient treatment, medication management, medication assisted therapy, detox and residential services. In his position, Larry has greatly expanded access to care for the community – particularly for those in need who do not have resources to access much need services – by facilitating major collaborations with the Mecklenburg County ABC Board, Mecklenburg County, Cardinal Innovations Healthcare, the Mecklenburg County Court system, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and countless other organizations.

“I’d like to thank Larry for his almost 17 years of service as Executive Director of Anuvia,” said Board Chairman Chuck McElroy. “I wish Larry the best in celebrating his retirement. I’m confident Valerie and the Executive Leadership team will continue to lead our agency into the next chapter of serving our community.”Valerie advised, “my goal is to make this life one that is dedicated to the service of others. We only have a short amount of time to make a difference in this world. I feel it was divine intervention that placed me in the path of Anuvia. After volunteering as a board member, I understood what a remarkable community organization Anuvia is and was so grateful for the opportunity to become a staff member in 2011.” Valerie further stated, “Our mission is strong, and our vision for the future is to remain the best substance abuse prevention and treatment services for children, adults, and families in our community.”

Valerie Kopetzky’s educational background includes a Master of Nonprofit Administration from the University of Notre Dame and Bachelor of Arts degrees in Accountancy and in Psychology from the University of Notre Dame. Prior to becoming employed at Anuvia, Valerie managed the Charlotte Mecklenburg Development Corporation. Anuvia Prevention and Recovery Center is a private, non-profit organization founded in 1958 by the Mecklenburg County ABC Board. Anuvia provides an array of prevention and education services and offers a full continuum of substance abuse services.

If you would like to know more information about Anuvia, please call Abigail Lord-Ramsey, Director of Fund Development at

2018 Mecklenburg County Opioid Summit

The 2018 Mecklenburg County Opioid Summit is March 22, 2018 from 8 am to 4pm. For more information about the event, visit

Client and Family Advisory Committee Member Recruitment

The Client and Family Advisory Committee is recruiting new members! If you’re interested, please contact Edith Moore at 704.445.6868 or

Client and Family Advisory Committee (CFAC)

Purpose: The Client and Family Advisory Committee will promote quality services for Anuvia Prevention and Recovery Center clients and family members by supporting positive changes, services for all clients, and promoting client and family empowerment.

Mission Statement: The Client and Family Advisory Committee represents and advocates for all client and families within the scope of Anuvia Prevention and Recovery Center. Our mission is to ensure that our clients and family members receive the highest quality services.

Objectives of the CFAC are:

  • Participate in the needs assessment and community planning – making recommendations about gaps in services, eligibility for services, service array, and the development of additional services.
  • Ensure provided services are grounded in established and emerging “Best Practices” standards.
  • Participate in quality improvement activities, including tracking and commenting on outcome measures and performances indicators.
  • Ensure client and family participation among all levels of services delivery.
  • Promote activities related to client and family empowerment.
  • Inform and educate other clients, family members, and the community.

Membership and Terms:

Membership applications will be reviewed by the CFAC committee and liaison to determine eligibility and representative status (disability, race, and ethnicity). Recovering applicants must have a minimum of six months of sobriety for membership.

Those interested in membership should have a desire to want to work towards improving the lives of others.




Anuvia to participate in #GivingTuesdayCLT this year

Anuvia, in partnership with SHARE Charlotte, is participating in #GivingTuesdayCLT, which is Tuesday, Nov. 28, this year for the first time ever.

In an event called ‘Change for Change’, supporters are being asked to drop off the change from their change jars or other monetary donations at Anuvia, 100 Billingsley Road, from 8 am to 4 pm on Tuesday, November 28.

Everyone who stops by and drops off their change or other donation will be entered into a raffle for hourly drawings for fun door prizes such as Starbucks gift cards and t-shirts. Anyone who can’t make it to Anuvia is being asked to make a donation here.

All donations will fund medication that supports clients receiving treatment for the growing opioid epidemic. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “Medication-assisted treatment is treatment for addiction that includes the use of medication along with counseling and other support. Treatment that includes medication is often the best choice for opioid addiction.”

However, medication-assisted treatment is expensive, which is why Anuvia has started to ask supporters for donations specifically to fund this initiative. If you have questions about this campaign, give us a call at 704.376.7447.

Anuvia Launches the Lock Your Meds® Campaign

    To promote awareness of prescription drug abuse in Mecklenburg County, Anuvia has launched the Lock Your Meds® campaign.  Lock Your Meds® , created by the National Family Partnership, is a campaign aimed at promoting safe storage and disposal of prescription drugs among parents. Click here to learn more about the campaign and how you can help to reduce prescription drug abuse.