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North Carolina’s Border Belt lags behind in COVID booster shots. Here’s what to know 

Counties in North Carolina’s Border Belt have among the lowest rates in the state for COVID-19 booster shots, which health officials say are crucial in combating the virus.  In Robeson County, 19% of the population has received a vaccine booster or additional shot, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. That’s the second lowest percentage in the state, behind neighboring Hoke County.  …Read more Continue reading North Carolina’s Border Belt lags behind in COVID booster shots. Here’s what to know 

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Subscribe to our free newsletter and never miss a story

By Les High Publisher There’s a line from the Apple TV series Ted Lasso in which Ted is told: “The truth will set you free, but first, it will really piss you off.”  The truth, however, is hard to come by today. That’s one of the reasons why we founded the Border Belt Independent in May, and why we need your continued support. Newsrooms like …Read more Continue reading Subscribe to our free newsletter and never miss a story

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Coalition hopes to coordinate efforts to combat opioid crisis in Columbus County 

By Henry Hawthorne IV While overdoses underscore the opioid crisis in Columbus County, county leaders still have a long way to go to understand the core causes and provide effective prevention programs, says Lauren Cole. “The first two weeks of April we had 14 overdoses at Columbus Regional,” Cole said. “One mother overdosed and left three preschool children sitting in the emergency room. No one …Read more Continue reading Coalition hopes to coordinate efforts to combat opioid crisis in Columbus County 

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Abuse, neglect of children often goes hand-in-hand with parents’ drug use

Editor’s note: This is the sixth in a multi-part series where the Border Belt Independent looks at what has changed since The News Reporter’s six-part series in 2017 that reported on the opioid crisis and associated mental health issues. Today, Reporter Ivey Schofield looks at how children are impacted by parents’ drug use and how schools, social services, Boys and Girls Homes and other agencies …Read more Continue reading Abuse, neglect of children often goes hand-in-hand with parents’ drug use

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Drug treatment program leads to sobriety, sisterhood

Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a multi-part series where the Border Belt Independent looks at what has changed since The News Reporter’s six-part series in 2017 that reported on the opioid crisis and associated mental health issues. Today, Reporter Ivey Schofield looks at how women at the Rose House in Whiteville work to overcome addiction. By Ivey SchofieldBBI Writer Eleven women gather in …Read more Continue reading Drug treatment program leads to sobriety, sisterhood

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Hospital, EMS seeing ‘a lot more’ overdose deaths

Publisher’s note: This is the third in a multi-part series where the Border Belt Independent looks at what has changed since The News Reporter’s six-part series in 2017 that reported on the opioid crisis and associated mental health issues. Today, Publisher Les High looks at the increase in overdose deaths, particularly during the pandemic, and how overdoses and mental crises strain the resources of the …Read more Continue reading Hospital, EMS seeing ‘a lot more’ overdose deaths

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Sheriff: Columbus drug crime is a ‘bad situation’

  Editor’s note: This is the second in a multi-part series where the Border Belt Independent looks at what has changed since The News Reporter’s six-part 2017 series on the opioid crisis and associated mental health issues. Today, Reporter Ivey Schofield looks at how law enforcement officials, an attorney and local support agencies view drugs through the lens of crime. Ivey SchofieldBBI Writer Drugs in …Read more Continue reading Sheriff: Columbus drug crime is a ‘bad situation’

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Don’t let your guard down as COVID cases drop in southeastern NC, health experts say

By Sarah Nagem sarahnagem@borderbelt.org COVID-19 cases are falling across southeastern North Carolina, and fewer people are hospitalized with the virus. But now is not the time to stop taking precautions, health officials say. “I don’t believe for a minute we can let our guard down,” said Renae Taylor, vice president and chief nurse executive at UNC Health Southeastern in Robeson County. “The last thing I …Read more Continue reading Don’t let your guard down as COVID cases drop in southeastern NC, health experts say

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Rural North Carolina hospital leader emerges as outspoken critic of COVID ‘noise’

Joann Anderson, president and CEO of UNC Health Southeastern in Robeson County, has emerged as a Facebook-posting, say-it-how-it-is advocate for COVID vaccines and a fighter against misinformation, conspiracy theories and political divides.Read more Continue reading Rural North Carolina hospital leader emerges as outspoken critic of COVID ‘noise’

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Family calls for change after deputies shoot NC man struggling with mental illness, drugs

By Sarah Nagem sarahnagem@borderbelt.org When Matthew Oxendine used drugs or had too much to drink, he would sometimes call 911 or the local sheriff’s office and say he was going to kill himself.  He began making the calls years ago, long before he spent about a week in a psychiatric unit in 2016, said his brother, Greg Oxendine. Doctors diagnosed him with depression.  So when …Read more Continue reading Family calls for change after deputies shoot NC man struggling with mental illness, drugs

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COVID vaccinations are climbing, slowly, in rural North Carolina. But skepticism remains

By Sarah Nagem sarahnagem@borderbelt.org Rita Watson had chosen not to get the COVID-19 vaccine. She was worried about what was in the shots and whether they were safe.  But when her 41-year-old daughter contracted the virus and became severely ill, Watson reconsidered. She and her four sons went to the Robeson County Health Department on Thursday to be vaccinated.  “I decided, seeing my daughter in …Read more Continue reading COVID vaccinations are climbing, slowly, in rural North Carolina. But skepticism remains

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‘Can’t we all just get along?’ NC family pleads for answers in football player’s death

By Sarah Nagem sarahnagem@borderbelt.org Marqueise Coleman was gunned down in the small southeastern North Carolina town where he was well-known as a good student, a standout on the football field and a young man with a bright future. Now, Coleman’s family is pleading with the community to share information about the shooting that left the 19-year-old dead in the early-morning hours of July 29. “I …Read more Continue reading ‘Can’t we all just get along?’ NC family pleads for answers in football player’s death

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New community center will serve Scotland County families in need

By Rebecca Woltz Young Dakoda Cribb was struggling in elementary school, earning C’s and D’s on his report cards.  Then, in the third grade, he joined a program through Partners in Ministry in Scotland County that aims to help children improve their reading and math scores.   Three years later, Dakoda is getting A’s and B’s, and he says he understands the importance of learning.    “When …Read more Continue reading New community center will serve Scotland County families in need

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At Lumbee Homecoming, a celebration of culture and a look at a community in need

Laura Dial left Robeson County decades ago in search of new job opportunities.  But Dial, 72, travels nearly 250 miles each year to attend Lumbee Homecoming, a celebration of family, food and Native American traditions that draws thousands of people to southeastern North Carolina.  “This is always home,” said Dial, who now lives in Anderson, S.C.  Some say this year’s event, which wrapped up Saturday …Read more Continue reading At Lumbee Homecoming, a celebration of culture and a look at a community in need

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One county’s struggle to control COVID-19 highlights challenges in rural North Carolina

Rufus Duckworth, the mayor of Bladenboro in southeastern North Carolina, said he was shocked when he learned about a COVID-19 cluster in his town.  But, he said, “A lot of people are weary of the vaccination.”  Bladen County, home to about 33,000 people, including 1,600 in Bladenboro, is the only North Carolina county currently designated by state health officials as having “critical spread” of COVID-19.  …Read more Continue reading One county’s struggle to control COVID-19 highlights challenges in rural North Carolina

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‘Our children need more voices.’ Southeastern NC seeks volunteers to help kids in court

At 4 a.m. each weekday morning, attorney Bryan Wilson grabs a cup of coffee and looks over dozens of files of neglected and abused children from southeastern North Carolina. It’s his job to make sure they’re safe during the months — and sometimes years — that their cases trudge through the court system.  Hours later at the Bladen County Courthouse, Wilson ticks through a series …Read more Continue reading ‘Our children need more voices.’ Southeastern NC seeks volunteers to help kids in court

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Workforce is key to capitalizing on agribusiness and population growth in Columbus

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of stories that provides an overview of the economies of Bladen, Columbus, Robeson, and Scotland counties in southeastern North Carolina. The 954 square miles of vast farmland and forests have shaped Columbus County’s economy for generations.  “We can grow anything,” said Columbus County Economic Development Director Gary Lanier. “Because of our farming heritage, we also have …Read more Continue reading Workforce is key to capitalizing on agribusiness and population growth in Columbus