Community Engagement

MAHEC actively engages in community education efforts in partnership with public health departments, schools, community-based organizations, and government agencies at the local, regional and state levels.

The opioid epidemic can be viewed like a swiftly moving river that has a lot of momentum and requires a comprehensive and coordinated community effort to dam and redirect.

Treatment and emergency responses like overdose-reversing naloxone focus on pulling those in active addiction out of the whitewater rapids where they are in immediate danger. Community awareness and prevention initiatives, like North Carolina's More Powerful NC campaign, are upstream efforts that help redirect and slow the river so that our family, friends, and neighbors don't fall into addiction in the first place.

MAHEC’s medical experts and educators regularly participate in community town hall meetings, youth summits, and public presentations to increase community awareness about the importance of

  • Opioid risks and health impacts of substance misuse
  • Safe alternatives for pain management
  • Safe use, storage, and disposal of prescription medications
  • Naloxone access and use for reversing overdoses
  • Reducing stigma and barriers to substance use disorder treatment
  • Access to recovery support services
  • Community education and self-advocacy

To request a speaker or educational program for your organization or community event, please fill out our Opioid Education Request form.

MAHEC also provides substance misuse awareness education for school-aged children and trauma resiliency training and peer support services for women at risk for substance use disorders.

It's Just a Pill is an original musical drama being developed and produced by MAHEC to provide school-aged children and their families with engaging, age-appropriate opioid prevention and awareness tools. The professionally produced play will tour Western North Carolina and several counties in Eastern North Carolina in spring 2019. Following this initial tour, licenses will be available to individuals and organizations who would like to produce the play independently to raise awareness in their communities. For more information, click here.

School Health Program Substance Use Initiatives—Our school health program oversees all Buncombe County and Asheville City Schools nurses. MAHEC provides education and training opportunities for school nurses in all 16 counties that MAHEC serves. School nurses work with community partners to provide age-appropriate opioid and substance misuse health education for grades K-12 and support for student-led public awareness campaigns and regional substance-free youth coalitions. Our school health program has also been instrumental in securing naloxone, an effective opioid overdose reversal medication, and staff training for all Buncombe County and ACS schools.

Toe River Advocates for Community Education and Support (TRACES) helps women in Yancey, Mitchell, and Madison counties who are at risk for substance use disorders to embark on the recovery journey of their choosing. This program helps connect women to peer support, medication-assisted treatment, and other resources. For women interested in birth control, TRACES can help women access long-acting reversible contraception through the health department or their own healthcare provider. TRACES also provides community education on opioid and substance misuse as well as resiliency training on adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) for social service organizations, the Justice Department, healthcare providers, and other interested organizations. For more information about TRACES, please contact Idania Garcia, MSW, at

More Powerful NC—MAHEC is a partner in the More Powerful NC campaign created by the North Carolina Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services to raise awareness of the scope and danger of the opioid crisis and what North Carolinians can do, working together, to play a part in ending the epidemic. The campaign outlines real, actionable steps for the safe storage, use and disposal of pain medications, as well as resources for finding treatment and recovery support. Visit to learn more.

To learn more about harm reduction and recovery resources in Western North Carolina, please visit our resources page. You can also explore Buncombe County Health and Human Services’ Closer Than You Think campaign for additional resources.