The CARE Foundation of Western North Carolina Inc. is bringing together local professionals to explore the crisis of substance abuse in Burke County and discuss possible solutions.

“Substance Misuse and Abuse in the Community” is a free workshop that will take place from 6-7:30 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 16, at Summit Community Church at 407 S. Green St. in Morganton. The workshop is open to the public and especially designed for people caregiving for someone dealing with a substance abuse problem, whether their loved one needs to get help or is already seeking treatment.

“Most of our board members are very aware of the needs and necessities in the area, and one that we decided at the last board meeting that was very important is the opioid crisis that we are in,” said Jonnie Houck, executive director of the CARE Foundation.

Speakers for the event will include Burke County Sheriff Steve Whisenant; Wendi Craven-Barber, BS, MA, EdS, a retired Burke County Public Schools administrator; Kim James, executive director of Burke Recovery; and Brandi Greer, AAS, CSAC-R, also representing Burke Recovery.

Whisenant will describe the current state of substance abuse in the county and how his department is dealing with the crisis. He was appointed to the position of sheriff in 2011, following the retirement of former Sheriff John McDevitt, then elected to remain sheriff in 2014 and 2018 , according to his biography. Previously, he served as the interim jail administrator at the Burke-Catawba District Confinement Facility in Morganton. He is a retired Chief United States Probation Officer. He specifically served as the CEO of the Eastern District of Virginia Probation Office.

Prior to his move to Virginia, he started his career with the Burke County Sheriff’s Office, working his way up from patrol officer to captain of operations from 1977-85.

Whisenant earned a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from Gardner-Webb University, graduating summa-cum-laude.

He is active in many local organizations, especially those related to law enforcement or community safety, and has received many awards for his work.

James will discuss the work of Burke Recovery and strategies to get those addicted to substances into a treatment program. She is a former English professor who has used her experience with grant writing, marketing, public relations, finance and administrative oversight to benefit various local nonprofit organizations, leading her to her current position with Burke Recovery, according to her biography.

The CARE Foundation was created to provide resources and information to people caring for loved ones with debilitating illnesses, specifically through free workshops with special training supported by professionals.

“Caregiving is a 24/7 job,” Houck said. “It’s very difficult. So many times, they just get burned out. I want them to be able to cope (by receiving) information from the agency that’s going to deliver and know that it’s accurate, documented information, and that they can depend on us.”

Topics they have covered include Alzheimer's/dementia, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, and substance abuse.

“We consider ourselves a facilitator,” Houck said. “We work with local agencies to provide information, because when you’re a caregiver, you don’t have time to get out and try to find information about where you can get help. Partnering with organizations such as hospitals, churches and other nonprofits whose focus match our emphasis area, enables CARE to provide free or very low-cost sites for training from experienced qualified trainers. Consequently, grant funds can be stretched to reach the largest number of participants. CARE Foundation supports efforts that benefit the humanity of all people in need.”

Those interested in attending the workshop should RSVP by contacting Houck at 828-201-5728 or, though she said walk-ins are welcome as well.

For more information, visit

Staff writer Tammie Gercken can be reached at

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