NC advocates to join national rally on fentanyl crisis in U.S. 

Advocates who are fighting to keep fentanyl off the streets say more needs to be done. ABC11 (Raleigh) interviewed Patricia Drewes and Beth Moore for this story.

ABC11 coverage of Fentvic Meetup #12

Coverage from the 6PM edition:

Coverage from the 11PM edition:

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) — It’s a problem that’s become all too common.

In Durham County alone, the sheriff said last year they seized 3.7 grams of fentanyl from the streets. This year, so far over 300 grams have been removed.

On Saturday the group Fentanyl Victims of North Carolina held its 12th meet-up in Durham.

Natalie Beauchaine proudly shared a photo of her son Jake.

“He was smart he was giving he was loyal if he was your friend he was your loyal friend,” Natalie said.

But behind his smile was also a battle with addiction that ultimately turned tragic.

“It was not an overdose, it was something that he thought was heroin,” Natalie said.

ALSO SEE: ‘World No Tobacco Day’ highlights effort to curb the use of vaping in youth

The heroin was laced with a fatal amount of fentanyl. In the midst of her grief, Natalie found community among other members of a club no one wants to be a part of – families of fentanyl victims.

“It doesn’t know race, it doesn’t know color, it doesn’t know socioeconomic background, it affects everybody,” she said.

Around a table, other families shared similar stories, including how many were caught off guard by what has become a silent killer.

“Marijuana can be laced with fentanyl and sometimes fentanyl can even be in water or soda as far as a child is concerned, and you don’t know that it’s there which is really really dangerous,” said Dr. Wanda Boone.

Dangerous also because of how cheap and prevalent it is.

“It is an economic boon to the drug trade,” said Durham County Sheriff Clarence Birkhead.

Birkhead said his office is working to get fentanyl off the streets.

“Once they get it, they can take those 3.7 grams or those 300 grams and just multiply it exponentially,” he said.

One solution they’re fighting for is making sure naloxone is available in every school in the state. They’re also hoping these stories and legacies save lives.

“I just don’t want to see any other families go through this. It’s a horrible grief and it’s just something that nobody else has to go through,” Natalie said.

Wake County approved naloxone in all schools but not every county has them. State Senator Mike Woodard said it would only cost around $350,000 to supply naloxone statewide and he’s hoping to get it into the state budget.

Read the story and watch the video on the ABC11 News website.

Raleigh teen carrying Narcan saves life by the side of the road

A Leesville Road High School student was heading to downtown Raleigh to run errands when she saw something on the side of the road. Victoria Taton ended up saving a man from a dire situation.

A senior at a Raleigh high school now has a rare, first-hand account of the power of the life-saving drug naloxone.

A Leesville Road High School student was heading to downtown Raleigh to run errands when she saw something on the side of the road.

Victoria Taton ended up saving a man from a dire situation.

Taton was driving near Crabtree Valley Mall, running errands in the busy afternoon rush hour, when she saw two young men in the distance. One of them was lying on the ground. She trusted her gut – waited for a red light, and went over to them.

“I asked them, what’s going on?” she said. “I kept my distance. He’s telling me that his friend is on the ground not responding. And he’s not sure what’s happening. But he thinks it might be an overdose from the symptoms that he was seeing.”

Taton raced to get the Narcan in her car — raced back, and administered it in the stranger. It worked.

“It takes anywhere from 30 seconds to two minutes to work,” Taton said. “In about 30 seconds to 60 still with the EMS on the phone, he comes out of the state of response that he was in. He throws up. He’s coming in and out of consciousness. The EMS are telling us that.”

Officials are still combating the stigmas around naloxone, known by its brand name Narcan. But more and more people are carrying naloxone kits to keep them and their peers safe. Taton said she’s been carrying it with her for two years.

“I just felt that it’s a really good thing to carry,” Taton said. “You really just don’t know anymore. Especially with kids our age, going off to college soon, you just don’t know. I just thought it was safe to carry it from then on.”

Her instincts proved right. Taton hopes her experience will motivate others to consider carrying Narcan.

“They said he most likely would be OK because we did the right thing,” Taton said. “If we weren’t there, he probably would’ve died. We weren’t sure what he took, but because we acted quickly, yeah.”

‘Fentanyl is everywhere.’ Wake schools wants to be ready to treat opioid overdoses.

Wake County schools will now be required to make sure that they’ve got employees who can treat opioid overdoses on campus.

The Wake County school board approved Tuesday a new policy on the emergency use of Naloxone, which can reverse an opioid overdose when given in time. Every Wake school will be required to have at least three employees who are trained in how to administer Naloxone, which is the generic name for the drug Narcan.

The policy comes as opioid overdoses and addiction have surged nationally.

In 2022, 219 people died from drug overdoses in Wake County, The News & Observer previously reported. Opioids — medicines prescribed for pain like codeine, fentanyl, oxycodone and morphine — were responsible in three-quarters of the deaths.

“Fentanyl is everywhere,” said school board member Wing Ng. “Fentanyl is a crisis. We all have to be aware of the signs and symptoms.”

STOCKING NALOXONE IN SCHOOLS

The policy directs Superintendent Robert Taylor to develop a program to place Naloxone at schools, early learning centers and district administrative offices. There’s currently no money in the budget to purchase Naloxone. The district estimates that it could cost $6,500 to $30,000 to place two Naloxone doses at each school. The board accelerated adoption of the policy to get it in place before a June 5 deadline to apply for funding from the county.

Read the full article on the Raleigh News & Observer website.

Bill would limit public access to autopsy records

A new proposal would reduce public access to autopsy reports in North Carolina.

On Tuesday, state lawmakers tacked a slew of new provisions onto House Bill 250, which previously focused on reworking the offenses for distributing drugs.

Changes include no longer allowing the public access to photographs, video or audio recordings in autopsy reports. Current law generally allows people to inspect and examine these under supervision. Only certain public officials are allowed to obtain copies.

Written reports could be limited as well, by another section dealing with criminal investigation records. The change would expand the definition of those records, which are not typically public, to include autopsy records.

A spokesperson for the state agency charged with investigating suspicious deaths said the proposal “compromises the ability to conduct thousands of investigations and limits the ability to share information with families.”

Read more: Bill would limit public access to autopsy records

The bill would also change the makeup of the state’s office tasked with providing help to indigent defendants.

WHAT IS PUBLIC NOW?

Currently, North Carolina death certificates, autopsy, investigation and toxicology reports are public records and once finalized may be obtained from the state’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME), part of the Department of Health and Human Services.

This bill would designate records compiled by OCME as records of criminal investigation, which are not public under state law.

Currently, records of criminal investigations conducted by public law enforcement agencies and by the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission are not public. These include records compiled by the North Carolina State Crime Laboratory. The bill would add to this definition records compiled by OCME. If the bill is passed, this would become effective July 1.

Sen. Danny Britt, a Robeson County Republican, presented the bill on Tuesday. He said the bill “clarifies that all photos and videos of autopsy shall not be released to the public while a crime is being investigated or prosecuted.”

“There may be some concern for availability of these autopsy reports and photos being made available for press and things like that,” Britt acknowledged. “What this does is it ensures that these items are not released outside of the chain that may improperly influence the jury and, again, potentially lead to a case being overturned on appeal where a death is involved.”

He also said that the medical examiner’s records that the bill would treat as criminal investigation records would be accessible to the public at the conclusion of a criminal investigation and prosecution.

The bill would apply “just to those particular cases that are being prosecuted criminally,” not to other cases, Britt said in response to a question from Democratic Sen. Sydney Batch.

He also said these restrictions would apply to family members, though district attorneys could sit down with the family and show the records.

WHO PERFORMS AUTOPSIES?

When someone dies in a violent, suspicious or unexpected way in North Carolina, part-time medical examiners inspect the bodies. If the cause of death is not clear, they request autopsies.

An investigation by The Charlotte Observer and News & Observer found that it often takes many months — and sometimes more than a year — for autopsies to be completed. That can cause financial crises for families who need autopsies and death certificates to access life insurance and other assets they’re entitled to inherit.

The system is backlogged chiefly because there are too many bodies and too few pathologists and toxicologists to perform autopsies, the newspapers’ investigation found.

The medical examiner system faces challenges, and “this bill as currently written, would make those challenges much, much more difficult,” Mark Benton, chief deputy secretary for health with DHHS, told lawmakers Tuesday.

Asked for further details on concerns with the bill, DHHS spokesperson Kelly Haight Connor wrote that “the proposed language weakens the independent nature of North Carolina’s medical examiner system, compromises the ability to conduct thousands of investigations and limits the ability to share information with families.”

In addition to the changes on public access, the bill adds “continuing education” training requirements for county medical examiners. It also details how examiners can request and obtain a deceased person’s personal belongings.

Haight Connor said DHHS had ongoing concerns with staff vacancies and high turnover at the OCME and “any changes in process or caseloads needs to be thoughtfully considered given these staffing concerns.”

Autopsy reports from shootings and other violent incidents are often requested by the news media to glean details that otherwise may have not been released on what occurred in the incidents.

South Carolina does not allow access to autopsy reports; its state Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that these reports are not public records and fall under privacy provisions of the state’s open records law.

In 2020, a bill shielding some death investigation records from the public was vetoed by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper. The General Assembly currently is controlled by Republicans and has a veto-proof supermajority.

Britt said the new bill was being worked on and should be ready by next Tuesday for votes.

District attorneys want to ”narrow this down to a workable piece that involves just the pending criminal cases,” said Chuck Spahos, a lobbyist for the N.C. Conference of District Attorneys.

INDIGENT DEFENSE SERVICES REWORK

The bill also cuts the membership of North Carolina’s Commission on Indigent Defense Services from 13 members to nine.

It also grants two new appointments to the commission to the chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court and four to House and Senate leaders. All of those offices are currently held by Republicans.

It cuts the governor’s one appointment and that of various state associations. Gov. Roy Cooper is a Democrat.

Read the original article on the Raleigh News & Observer website.

New opioid overdose plan approved unanimously for Wake County Public School System

CARY, N.C. (WTVD) — There’s a push to get a life-saving medication in every Wake County school.

Wake County Public Schools Board of Education voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve a new Naloxone policy.

Last month, Wake County school board members approved a new policy that requires all county schools to keep a supply of Naloxone – also known by its brand name Narcan – and train faculty members on how to use it.

Before the vote, school resource officers already carried Narcan, but not every Wake County school has an SRO. The newly approved plan requires at least three staff members at each school to be trained and able to administer the drug in case of an emergency. However, it fell short of requiring Naloxone to be kept on campus.

According to state health data, Naloxone was used for suspected overdoses 21 times on schools’ ground statewide in 2023.

“If we have a tool that can save a life, particularly one of our student’s lives,” Chris Heagarty, Wake County School board chair, said, “we want to do everything we can to take those steps.”

Under the new plan, each school principal will designate three or more people on their staff as a part of a medical care program. Those designated people will receive initial training and annual training on how to properly store naloxone, as well as how to administer it.

Each school principal will also need to come up with an emergency action plan for the use of naloxone that complies with all state laws.

“There’s definitely been people at my school that do drugs and it would be best if we had something like that on campus. God forbid something happens,” Cary High School student Emily Ranft said.

“I personally think it should be available in every school. Just because you never know. Better safe than sorry,” Dr. Collin Welteroth said.

This policy is personal for some Wake County mothers.

Barb Walsh, back in December, urged the school board to consider requiring Naloxone be put in schools countywide.

Walsh’s daughter Sophia, died nearly three years ago from fentanyl poisoning. She was drinking from a water bottle that had the dangerous opioid mixed into it.

She made it her mission to not only support families like hers but also promote the life-saving medicine Naloxone.

“It doesn’t take an army. It doesn’t take a lobbyist,” Walsh said to ABC11 in April. “It takes a mom who’s lost a child to stand in front of the school board to make this happen. And that’s significant.”

Tuesday’s Wake County school board meeting starts at 1 p.m.

WCPSS School Board approves Naloxone in Schools!

On May 21, 2024 at the Wake County Public School System board meeting Barbara Walsh spoke on the proposal to have Naloxone in all 200+ schools across Wake County.

Shortly after Barbara’s comments, WCPSS approved emergency use naloxone in all 200 schools! The second reading was waived and the motion PASSED!

Garner Man Sentenced to 16 and a Half Years in Federal Prison for Trafficking Fentanyl Resulting in an Overdose Death

RALEIGH, N.C. – Reginald Webb, a 33-year-old resident of Garner, has been sentenced to 198 months in prison for distributing heroin and fentanyl in the Raleigh area.  On April 11, 2017, Webb was the source of the fentanyl distributed to a 22-year-old woman who overdosed and died.  Webb pled guilty on January 5, 2024. Webb’s co-defendant in this case, as well as an additional individual who was indicted separately, have previously pled guilty to charges and are awaiting sentencing.

“In 2023, there were more than 4,000 suspected overdose deaths in North Carolina. Drug dealers who lace fentanyl into their supply and prey on vulnerable individuals who have an addiction should know that the U.S. Attorney’s Office will use every tool available to seek justice for victims of fentanyl poisoning and their families” said U.S. Attorney Michael Easley. “Webb’s actions show a complete disregard for human life motivated by sheer greed.”

Continue reading “Garner Man Sentenced to 16 and a Half Years in Federal Prison for Trafficking Fentanyl Resulting in an Overdose Death”

Parents of overdose victims press lawmakers for better Good Samaritan laws


By Jennifer Fernandez

GREENSBORO — Randy Abbott lost his daughter to a drug overdose in 2015.

No one called for help in time.

Diannee Carden’s son died from a heroin overdose in 2012.

No one called for help in time.

As North Carolina continues to lose more people to overdoses every year — a record 4,339 in 2022 — parents and families are calling for a change in state laws that they say would encourage people to call for help, even if they had used drugs themselves or had supplied the potentially fatal dose.

“We do not support the current approach of tougher criminality in prison for the non drug dealer who participates in an overdose event,” Carden said Wednesday during a news conference on the changing legal landscape of the opioid epidemic. 

Diannee Carden

“We cannot be quiet. We will continue, as family members who have lost someone to overdose, to speak out. We want policies that work to keep people alive with compassion, support and harm reduction,” added Carden, who founded ekiM for Change after her son’s death (the organization’s name honors her son Mike, using his name spelled backwards). The Pitt County-based nonprofit provides a variety of harm reduction services, from clean needles and naloxone to fentanyl test strips and HIV testing. 

Abbott spoke earlier in the week at a news conference in Greensboro to release the results of a new survey from Expand Good Sam NC that showed likely North Carolina voters also want to see changes in the state’s Good Samaritan law.

“In a drug overdose event, voters clearly state that greater emphasis needs to be placed on saving an overdose victim’s life instead of charging someone with a drug offense,” said Abbott, coalition coordinator and a parent advocate.

Good Samaritan law poll

Expand Good Sam NC is a coalition of organizations from across the state proposing key changes to the state’s Good Samaritan law that they say will encourage people to call for assistance without fear of penalty.

The group commissioned a poll of likely voters conducted by phone last month by Strategic Partners Solutions, a Raleigh-based consulting firm. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Among its findings:

  • At least three-quarters of the 600 voters surveyed, from across the political spectrum, agreed that “Saving the life of someone who has overdosed should be more important than catching the person who supplied the drugs.”
  • Over two-thirds of the voters across all demographic subsets agree that a person who calls 911 for assistance in a drug overdose situation should not be charged with possession as long as they are not a drug trafficker.
  • These voters also overwhelmingly agree (75.5 percent) on providing protection to university students who call to report an overdose.
  • Nearly two-thirds (66.2 percent) of the surveyed voters agree that a person should not be charged with “death by distribution” if they called for assistance.

Of the randomly selected people surveyed, close to two in five said they have had a friend or family member die from an overdose, something that was more common for the people from rural areas. 

Mary O’Donnell has long supported expanding the state’s Good Samaritan laws. Her son Sean died in 2017 after passing out while drinking with friends at a quarry near his Chatham County home. Frightened, his friends left him behind. He later fell into the quarry and drowned. 

She encouraged supporters to let lawmakers know they want to see changes in the laws to help prevent more deaths.

Abbott said the changes are needed.

“We’re losing a generation,” he said. “We’re losing lives every day.”

N.C. changes laws

Last year, North Carolina legislators joined a growing list of states that have strengthened “death by distribution” laws. At the same time, the state broadened its Good Samaritan law to grant limited immunity from prosecution for possession of up to one gram of any drug. Previously, only certain drugs such as cocaine and heroin were covered. 

Abbott and Expand Good Sam NC said the changes to the Good Samaritan law don’t go far enough.

And Carden said making distribution laws harsher went too far.

They believe harsher punishments only put more lives at risk because people who fear getting charged for drug use are less likely to help someone who is overdosing.  

Barb Walsh, executive director of Fentanyl Victims Network of North Carolina, isn’t happy with some of the changes to the state’s Good Samaritan law for a different reason: The expansion to all drugs includes fentanyl, which is highly potent and is the leading cause of overdoses in North Carolina. 

Fentanyl is the drug that killed her 24-year-old daughter in 2021 when she unknowingly drank a bottle of water laced with the drug. No one has been charged in her daughter’s death.

Just two milligrams of fentanyl can be lethal.

“I disagree with that policy but went along with it to get the modified law passed,” Walsh said, adding that she thinks possession of illicit drugs as potent as fentanyl that could kill so many people is wrong.

She has been focusing her harm reduction efforts on getting the lifesaving opioid-reversal drug naloxone into the state’s schools. 

Naloxone in schools

Last week, Walsh hosted a Fentanyl Awareness Day in Raleigh at the General Assembly. More than 75 families met with legislators to talk about their concerns and to encourage support for efforts like getting naloxone in schools. 

The next day lawmakers introduced two bills that would appropriate $350,000 from state Opioid Settlement Funds to send naloxone to all of the state’s schools.

However, since school boards make policy decisions on the use of naloxone, Walsh said her organization is working on encouraging school systems to take advantage of the availability of the opioid-reversal drug.

She said Wake County Public Schools is considering a plan to approve having naloxone in all of its schools and may vote on it later this month.

The district, the largest in the state, already allows school resource officers to carry naloxone. The school district’s policy committee is recommending training some staff members in every school on recognizing signs of an opioid emergency and on using naloxone, according to news reports.

Last school year, school nurses, staff or SROs administered naloxone 21 times on school grounds in the state, according to the annual School Health Services Report Brochure. The year before, it was used 14 times.

‘Unrelenting disease’

North Carolina families that shared their stories of loss at the two events this week said they want lawmakers to decriminalize drug possession, increase harm reduction and addiction services, open overdose prevention centers, and provide evidence-based voluntary treatment options.

Recovery was what her daughter strived for, said Caroline Drake, community engagement coordinator for Guilford County Solution to the Opioid Problem

“She was a beautiful, caring, timid, sweet girl who wanted nothing but to love and be loved, to be free of this unrelenting disease,” Drake said of her daughter Kaitlyn, who died in 2020 at age 23. “She tried to outrun it many times, but it always seemed to catch up to her.”

Drake said GCStop was always there for her daughter when she was in active addiction. So it felt natural to her to give back when she was in recovery. She was volunteering up until the week before she relapsed and fatally overdosed.

“The road that brought me here is not one that I would ever have chosen but will continue to travel it in hopes to be able to spare another family from this unending pain,” Drake said. 

She said she also wants to spare another person “who doesn’t deserve to die” because someone is afraid they’ll be punished “for simply doing the right thing — calling for help.”

This article first appeared on North Carolina Health News and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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