‘North Carolina has a problem’: Task force discusses rise in child fentanyl deaths

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – More children in North Carolina are dying from fentanyl in recent years. The North Carolina Child Fatality Task Force took a closer look at those deaths and what could be done to prevent them during its meeting Thursday.

The N.C. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner Chief Toxicologist Sandra C. Bishop-Freeman shared the harrowing data with the task force.

“It has become clear that fentanyl is the first and foremost opioid that is currently causing illicit deaths in the pediatric population,” said Bishop-Freeman.

Bishop-Freeman said 108 North Carolina children died from fentanyl in the past decade, most of them are teenagers or are babies and toddlers.

“We have older individuals that are using the drug recreationally, either knowingly or unknowingly, and toddlers and infants that are finding the drug through exploration,” Bishop-Freeman said.

She said there’s been a huge increase in the past few years, with 35 fentanyl deaths in 2022 for teenagers and children below 5.

Marty McCaffrey sits on the state committee that reviews child deaths.

“It’s always been the worst meeting and the most horrific meeting I go to every month, but over the last couple of years I will say, if it’s possible, it’s gotten even more horrible,” McCaffrey said.

McCaffrey and others in the meeting said when it comes to solutions, safe storage is critical.

He suggests giving mothers who have known substance abuse issues secure boxes. He also suggests that after a mother gives birth hospitals should send her home with Narcan if doctors know the children in that home may be at risk for coming in contact with drugs.

“I mean, we’re going to have to accept, and really change our culture, about how we deal with some of these moms, all of these moms, with substance use, and recognize there’s good harm reduction strategies we have to start employing,” McCaffrey said.

Read the article and watch the video on the CBS17 website.

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