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.”

Police charge man in fentanyl death

A Wilson man has been charged with felony death by distribution in a teenager’s death from fentanyl intoxication last year.

Albert Graham Green, 23, was initially arrested on Oct. 28 and charged with selling and delivering a Schedule II controlled substance in connection with the juvenile’s death, according to a release from Sgt. Eric McInerny, public information officer with the Wilson Police Department. 

Green was given a $100,000 secured bond and placed in the Wilson County Detention Center.

On Tuesday, Green was charged with felony death by distribution. 

Green turned himself in on Wednesday and was released on a $1 million unsecured bond. 

McInerny said officers with the Wilson Police Department were dispatched to 1705 Hillcrest Drive for a report of an unconscious person at 8:20 p.m. on Sept. 25.

Dispatchers told police that a 17-year-old boy was unresponsive and not breathing, McInerny said. Officers arrived on scene and Wilson County EMS pronounced the juvenile deceased.

Continue reading “Police charge man in fentanyl death”

Davidson County nonprofit pushes for opioid overdose-reversing drug in all NC schools

Narcan is becoming more readily available in public places, including this free vending machine in the Forsyth County Detention Center. PAUL GARBER/WFDD

Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools officials are considering placing the opioid overdose-reversing drug Naloxone, also known as Narcan, in all of its schools. That’s something Barbara Walsh of Davidson County would like to see happen statewide. She lost her daughter, Sophia, to an accidental overdose. 

Wake Forest University student Marc Isabella spoke to Walsh about her advocacy through the nonprofit she started, Fentanyl Victims Network of North Carolina. 

Interview highlightsOn the goals of her nonprofit: 

“I did not know how to spell fentanyl when my daughter died, but it appears to me that the focus is on the numbers. And the numbers just really don’t mean much until you put faces to them. That’s what the goal is. I am finding families every day who have lost someone to fentanyl. They typically feel very alone, thinking their child was the only one who has died this way. But that’s not true.”

On her priorities for addressing the opioid crisis:

“In North Carolina, I would like to see Naloxone in all 100 counties. That’s the easiest way to save a life. We think all the schools should have it just in case a student does something… If they have Naloxone on school premises and somebody goes down and has a fentanyl emergency in the bathroom, they can save her life. And if they don’t have a fentanyl emergency, and they still administer Naloxone, nothing happens. They’re safe.”

On the biggest obstacle to getting Naloxone in schools:

“I would say that there are many preconceived notions. Nobody spends any time to figure out who that person is, and how fentanyl got into their body… Education about the danger of fentanyl is critical.”

On whether there’s a difference in attitudes on Naloxone between rural and urban counties:

“That’s a great question. Mecklenburg County just approved Naloxone in its schools in January. Rural Harnett County just approved it in December, to have it in all schools and on the school buses. You have some counties in eastern North Carolina, which are all rural, they have school policies to have it in the district. Every school in the district has Naloxone. So it’s kind of a crapshoot.”

Read the article and listen to the interview on the WFDD website.

Nearly a year later, a mother waits for closure in son’s death as NC medical examiner’s office faces challenges

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — A mother’s been waiting almost a year for closure and answers. Kelley Blas is waiting for the official cause of her son’s death.

On June 21, 2023, Blas lost her son John Steen to an accidental overdose.

“We don’t know what exactly it was that took John, because we don’t have a toxicology report, we don’t have an autopsy, we don’t have a death certificate,” Blas said.

Blas said she never thought she’d be waiting upwards of 11 months to receive the documents. 

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said there are staffing troubles at the Office of Chief Medical Examiner (OCME.)

“NCDHHS has ongoing concerns about staff vacancies and high turnover at OCME, which have a negative impact on the system’s ability to maintain high-quality services for North Carolinians,” said NCDHHS.

Read more: Nearly a year later, a mother waits for closure in son’s death as NC medical examiner’s office faces challenges

Blas knows how much closure those reports could bring. She lost her older son David to an intentional overdose in 2017 after struggles with mental health.  Four months after David’s death, Blas said she received the papers she once again is waiting for.

“I only could open it up just to read the cause of death, which I knew what it was, but I needed, I needed to see it,” Blas said. “And once I saw it, I closed it and locked it up in a box and I haven’t really looked at it since then. But it just gave me a sense of just, okay, this part is done, I don’t have to think of my child being in a morgue.”

DHHS said each case is different, so there is no typical time frame for completing reports. 

Blas said the state medical examiner’s office told her John’s case is complete, but pending pathology review.

OCME has 15 permanent state positions that are vacant, equal to a 20% vacancy rate, according to NCDHHS. NCDHHS said that includes four vacant pathologist positions (out of 13.)

At the same time, the caseload is growing, with a 26% case increase from 2019 to 2023, according to NCDHHS. The department said it is undoubtedly influenced by a 69% rise in suspected overdose deaths.

“A backlog in OCME creates challenges for law enforcement, attorneys, our public health partners and for the families and communities left behind,” said NCDHHS.

Blas emphasizes she’s not the only one waiting for closure, hearing stories of similar or longer waits from other families who lost also lost children to overdoses.

“When you lose someone, that already causes suffering, and then when you have to compound that by extending these waits longer and longer, I just, I’m not sure that others really understand what that’s like,” Blas said.

NCDHHS pointed to several recommendations in Governor Roy Cooper’s proposed budget, including:

  • Support expanded capacity by adding 35 permanent, state-funded positions to the OCME workforce;    
  • Strengthen and support local medical examiners by increasing their payments from $200 to $400 per case and would more adequately cover the cost of their time and mileage to/from a scene;   
  • Ensure local medical examiners are adequately supplied with scene kits, cameras and other necessary equipment to do their job;   
  • Improve communication for families, law enforcement, attorneys and others about the status of a medical examiner case by developing a 24-hour call center and self-service portal to more timely deliver case status information;    
  • Allow OCME to fully staff second and weekend shifts by providing compensation for OCME staff who are assigned non-traditional work hours; and   
  • Increase OCME’s ability to handle more cases though the much-needed expansion/renovation of the OCME location in Raleigh.    

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

‘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.

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!

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