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.

Wake County Schools to consider implementing naloxone emergency use plan

The Wake County School Board is set to consider a proposal that would designate specific people on school campuses to be trained in administering naloxone in the event of an overdose emergency. However, it does not guarantee the availability of naloxone in every school.

Barb Walsh has dedicated her days to fighting the opioid epidemic. She has been steadfast in her pursuit for justice and bringing awareness to fentanyl fatalities and their families.

Walsh said her daughter Sophia died after drinking a water bottle with fentanyl in it. Now, she’s working to get naloxone in every school in the state.

“She could’ve been saved by naloxone, but she wasn’t,” Walsh told WRAL News. “She died instantly.”

Naloxone reverses the effects of opiates. On Tuesday, the Wake County School Board will consider implementing a naloxone emergency use plan.

Right now, school resource officers carry naloxone, but not every Wake County school has one.

“If [SROs] did receive that call to respond, and they were on campus, they will be able to arrive within minutes to be able to administer that Narcan, if needed,” said Sgt. Jeremy Pittman, with the Wake County Sheriff’s Office.

Read more: Wake County Schools to consider implementing naloxone emergency use plan

In the proposal, it says principals would designate specific people on campus who would get training to administer it in the event of an emergency.

“Naloxone devices will be stored in secure but unlocked and easily accessible locations. Each school principal shall designate one or more school personnel, as part of the medical care program under G.S. 115C-375.1, to receive initial training and annual retraining from a school nurse or qualified representative of the local health department regarding the storage and emergency use of naloxone devices. The training shall include basic instruction and information on how to administer naloxone. Only such trained personnel are authorized to administer naloxone to persons believed to be having an overdose reaction, “ it reads.

Additionally, the principal would collaborate with “appropriate school personnel” to create an emergency action plan, including a school-wide employee training to recognize the symptoms of an opioid overdose.

However, each school would not be required to have it.

“This policy also does not guarantee availability of naloxone devices at school, and students and parents/guardians should consult with their own physician(s) regarding such medication(s). Nothing in this policy should be construed to require the presence or use of naloxone on school property or at school sponsored events, unless otherwise required by law. The Board cannot and does not guarantee that naloxone or a person trained in its use will be available at any particular school site or school-sponsored event,” the proposal reads.

That’s because the drug comes with a price tag, according to a district spokesperson. The spokesperson said the district is still working to identify funding to get the drug in every school. The current budget does not reflect funding for naloxone in each school. However, it could change.

According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, “Opioid overdose on school grounds increased this school year, with 21 incidents of naloxone use.”

Of the 115 school districts in the state, 22 have a district-wide program supported with local policy and procedure, according to NCDHHS.

“Naloxone in schools is a safety policy,” Walsh said. “We have AEDs in schools; we have EpiPens in schools; we have fire extinguishers in schools. Naloxone is not different.”

Walsh said people also need to change their attitudes.

“Everybody gets judged. That judgment is the person, the victim, is somehow at fault, that they’re less than,” she said. “It is a medical emergency. That person’s life could be saved.”

Additionally, Walsh said implementing naloxone in each school will bring wider awareness to the issue in general.

“You’re also educating about the symptoms of fentanyl,” she said. “They’ll have more tools in their toolbox.”

The board has been supportive of the proposal in previous meetings. A final vote will be required after Tuesday’s meeting.

Read the article and watch the video on the WRAL TV5 News website.

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.

Families of victims of fentanyl overdoses rally for education, Naloxone in schools

Families who have lost loved ones to fentanyl are meeting with state lawmakers Wednesday morning to talk about the dangers of the drug, what can be done to save lives – and ask lawmakers to do something about this.

Families say there’s a need for more support and public education.

Families of people who have lost somebody to fentanyl will have their photos on display here at the legislative building, so lawmakers can see the faces of people who have died in their community.

When you look at the data, more than 17,000 North Carolinians have died of fentanyl overdoses since 2013.

Several non-profits and advocates are pushing for Naloxone to be in every school in the state. It’s a lifesaving medication that can be administered through nasal spray if an opioid or fentanyl emergency occurs in a classroom.

They’re calling on the general assembly to appropriate $350,000 of an opioid settlement fund that the state controls. They also want lawmakers to provide two boxes or four doses of Naloxone to all public schools.

Barb Walsh is the executive director for Fentanyl Victims Network and is leading the charge.

“I would like to put faces instead of numbers in people’s minds because when they look at somebody who is young and vibrant and now dead, they’re like ‘oh, that could be me, my son, my daughter,'” Walsh said.

Wednesday’s press conference begins at 10 a.m. followed by a meeting with lawmakers.

Read the full article and watch the video clip on the WRAL TV5 website.

Fentanyl Awareness Day @ NC General Assembly 5/1/24

Be Seen ~ Be Heard ~ Be Remembered ~ Save Lives

DateWednesday 5/1/24
10 am press conference (outside) followed by visits with their Representative and Senator.
LocationNorth Carolina Legislative Building
16 West Jones Street
Raleigh NC 27601

Please RSVP to attend the event (optional).

NC mom campaigns to put ‘Narcan’ in state schools

Barbara Walsh, founder of Fentanyl Victims Network of North Carolina, has efforts underway to put Fentanyl reversing drug Naxolone or ‘Narcan’ in all state schools.

Barbara Walsh, founder of Fentanyl Victims Network of North Carolina, has efforts underway to put Fentanyl reversing drug Naxolone or ‘Narcan’ in all state schools.

What is Fentanyl?

It’s a powerful synthetic opioid that is similar to morphine but 50 to 100 times more potent.

While it is a prescription drug, it also can be made and used illegally.

When used properly, fentanyl treats severe pain like after surgery.

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, synthetic opioids like fentanyl are now the most common type of drugs involved in overdoses in the U.S.

Finding Solutions

Wake County resident, Barbara Walsh’s life changed forever in 2021. Her 24-year-old daughter died from fentanyl poisoning after unknowingly drinking a bottle of water laced with the drug. 

Because of that unfortunate event, Walsh is now leading efforts to get fentanyl out of the hands of minors and put Naloxone on the shelves of schools in North Carolina. 

The Fentanyl Victims Network of North Carolina or ‘Fent Vic’ for short was created as a grassroot campaign against illicit fentanyl in North Carolina. 

RELATED: 8 pounds of fentanyl-laced meth found on Reidsville man

Walsh’s network speaks and connects with families who have lost loved ones to the fentanyl drug. 

Currently, Walsh is pushing for the opioid reversal medication Naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan, to be available in every school in our state. Her efforts are across all 100 counties of our state.

“We’re seeing a lot of adolescents experimenting or unknown to them or experiencing fentanyl crisis and their lives could be saved if Naloxone which is the antidote to the fentanyl emergency is administered,” Walsh said. 

Since Walsh’s efforts began in December 2023, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has added naloxone to its first aid kits at every school. Nurses and at least two first responders at each school are to be trained in how to use it.

The Fent Vic organization will be holding a meetup on April 14 in Winston-Salem. For more information, click or tap HERE

Fentanyl Crisis in the Triad

Here in the triad, there are efforts underway.

State and local leaders addressed the opioid and fentanyl crisis alongside local leaders in February.

A combined $89 million dollars is going to fight the crisis in the Triad. $47 million dollars of that federal money is coming to Greensboro and Guilford County. Another $42 million dollars heads to Forsyth County and Winston-Salem.

The money is earmarked to help prosecute drug suppliers, and decrease demand thru recovery services.

Wake County gets $65 million to fight opioid crisis: How to spend the money?

Over the next 18 years, Wake County will receive $65 million to fight the opioid crisis.

Families who lost loved ones to opioids are helping Wake County plan how to spend millions of dollars to prevent more deaths.

According to Wake County, 219 people died from overdoses in the county in 2022, the last full year of recorded data. That’s one person every 40 hours.

Data from the Raleigh Police Department shows 103 of those deaths — nearly half — occurred in Raleigh, making 2022 the city’s most deadly year on record since police began tracking drug overdoses in 2015.

Over the next 18 years, Wake County will receive $65 million as part of a $50 billion nationwide settlement that forces drugmakers and distributors to pay for their part in the opioid epidemic.

On Friday, Wake County leaders asked for the community’s input on how to best use the money.

Wake County’s Opioid Settlement Community met Friday inside the McKimmon Center at North Carolina State University. The committee brought together more than 100 people, including families who’ve lost loved ones to the opioid crisis.

Cheryl Stallings, a Wake County commissioner, said the county has already received about $4.85 million.

“This is significant, and this is historical,” Stallings said. “We really want to use these funds wisely, and we think one of the best ways to do that is to plan with as many people as involved as how we want to use those funds moving forward.”

The funds have helped expand treatment for people with opioid use disorder and provided resources for survivors of an overdose.

Now, Wake County must create a plan to spend more settlement funds over the next two years.

“We have these funds that can actually do something in stopping that trend and building an infrastructure of health and well being for our community moving forward,” Stallings said.

Cary resident Barb Walsh said moving forward is how she honors her daughter, Sophia, who died of fentanyl poisoning in 2021.

“She stopped at an acquaintance’s house and grabbed a bottle of water, and in that bottle of water was diluted fentanyl,” Walsh said.

Walsh now runs the nonprofit Fentanyl Victims Network of North Carolina to help shape the response to the opioid crisis in Wake County.

“These folks are compassionate,” Walsh said. “They’re committed to saving lives, and so am I.”

Walsh said she hopes there can be easier access to the drugs Naloxone or Narcan, which can reverse an opioid overdose.

Wake County is currently trying to expand where people can get the life-saving drugs, including working with the Wake County Public School System to make Narcan available on all campuses.

Families of overdose victims join Wake County opioid settlement talks

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Wake County wants the community’s input on how to spend more than $65 million. The county will receive the money over the next 18 years as part of a national opioid settlement.

The county says it wants people directly impacted by the opioid epidemic to help make these decisions, and they hosted a community meeting Friday, bringing together several different groups sharing their stories.

“She died immediately. Naloxone was not administered and 911 was not called,” said Barb Walsh, executive director of the Fentanyl Victims Network of NC.

In August 2021, Walsh’s daughter Sophia was 24, applying to grad school and getting ready to buy a house, but one day, she stopped at an acquaintance’s house.

“She grabbed a water bottle out of the fridge,” Walsh said.

Walsh said the bottle had fentanyl in it, killing her daughter.

“You go into a black hole when your child dies,” Walsh said.

Walsh now runs the Fentanyl Victims Network of NC, which helps support families like hers.

She joined nearly 150 people at Wake County’s community meeting Friday to discuss how the county should spend money from the national opioid settlement.

“This will really help us define how to make these investments over the next two years,” said Alyssa Kitlas, Wake County’s opioid settlement program manager.

Overdose deaths in Wake County have increased since 2019. In 2021, state health records show 240 people died of of an overdose.

“We’d like to slow that trend and really support people with their most immediate needs,” Kitlas said.

The county wants to keep investing in treatment, early intervention and housing support.

Other groups, like the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition, also want to make sure people with firsthand experience are part of making decisions.

Read the full article and watch the video on the WRAL News website.

Fentanyl Awareness Day @ NC General Assembly 5/1/24

Be Seen ~ Be Heard ~ Be Remembered

DateWednesday, May 1, 2024, 10:00-11:00 am
LocationNorth Carolina Legislative Building
16 West Jones Street
Raleigh NC 27601

Please RSVP to attend the event.

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