Wilson County deploys overdose reversal kits to combat epidemic of opioid deaths 


By Jaymie Baxley

Small purple boxes have become a promising tool in Wilson County’s fight to lessen the deadly toll of the opioid epidemic. 

ONEbox is a first aid-like kit that contains doses of naloxone, a nasal spray that can rapidly reverse the effects of opioid overdose. When the kit is opened, a screen embedded in the lid plays a video of a paramedic giving step-by-step instructions for administering the drug.

“Let’s take a deep breath,” says the woman in the video, speaking in either English or Spanish, depending on the language selected. “Step No. 1 is to check to see if somebody really is unresponsive. You can do that by gently shaking them or shouting, or you can use your knuckles against the sternum to see if you get a reaction.”

Dozens of the kits have been placed in strategic locations throughout Wilson County in recent weeks. Jeff Hill, executive director of the Wilson County Substance Prevention Coalition, said he wants the boxes to become so ubiquitous that “any layman will know what it is, know how to identify it and know how to use it.”

“At the end of the day, we understand that anybody in the right place, right time and right scenario can become, or needs to become, a first responder,” he said. “Wherever I can’t be, a ONEbox can — and that could be the difference between life and death.”

Joe Murphy, left, Susan Bissett and Jeff Hill in front of the Wilson County Public Library, one of more than 60 local sites where ONEbox kits have been distributed since February.

‘Community of first responders’

Hill first encountered ONEbox at a conference last year in Washington, D.C. Impressed with the kit’s lifesaving potential, he brought back a sample to show county officials.

“My initial reaction was, ‘Wow, it is so compact and it gives you everything that you need — all the tools that you need — to help save a life,’” said Lori Winstead, deputy manager for Wilson County. “With this system, you kind of avoid that fear of not knowing what step comes next. It puts you at ease, and that’s important in an emergency situation.”

At the time, Winstead was working on a spending plan for Wilson County’s first tranche of funding from a landmark settlement with the pharmaceutical companies that stoked the national opioid epidemic. Money from the settlement, which brings $7.5 million to the county over the next 18 years, can only be spent on services and strategies that address the crisis. 

ONEbox fit the bill. In April 2023, the Wilson County Board of Commissioners agreed to buy 200 kits for $40,000. Hill’s coalition received the kits in February and began distributing them to local nonprofits, government agencies and businesses such as Casita Brewing Co. and Thomas Drug Store. 

He said the demand was “greater than we expected.” The coalition ran through its initial supply within three weeks, prompting the county to order another shipment of 200 kits.

“I think it caught on so fast because the community bought into being a resource,” said Hill, adding that Wilson is the first county to deploy the kits in North Carolina. “Our quote here in Wilson County is ‘we’re a community of first responders, not a community dependent on them.’” 

Unlike many of the state’s rural counties, Wilson has seen a decrease in fatal overdoses. The latest available data from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services shows that Wilson County had 30 overdose deaths in 2022, down from 37 deaths a year earlier. 

The use of naloxone rose over the same period. The Wilson Times reported that local paramedics administered naloxone to 105 patients in 2022, a 34 percent increase from the previous year. That number does not include doses administered by other public safety agencies and civilians. 

Hill said the kits are part of a larger effort to improve community access to lifesaving interventions. He noted that Wilson County’s Board of Education approved a policy last May requiring every school in the district to keep a supply of naloxone. 

“That’s very rare because most people would view that as, ‘Oh, no, we have a drug problem,’” he said. “That’s not what our school system is saying. What they’re saying is the same way we have an AED and a first aid kit on site, God forbid, in case of emergency, we want to make sure that we have naloxone to protect the sanctity […] and the livelihood of our students.”

Another example, he said, is Wilson Professional Services, a local medication-assisted addiction treatment center that offers free naloxone to anyone who requests it. The facility also provides training so people know how to properly administer the drug. 

Naloxone has been readily available for years at community hubs like the Wilson County Public Library, where a staff member used it to save the life of a man who overdosed in 2022. 

The intersection of Barnes and Goldsboro streets in downtown Wilson. Jeff Hill, executive director of the Wilson County Substance Prevention Coalition, said the community has been quick to embrace ONEbox.

Creating a model  

The county’s swift adoption of ONEbox has not gone unnoticed by the kits’ distributor, the West Virginia Drug Intervention Institute

“Wilson has certainly been one of the more comprehensive approaches that we’ve seen,” said Susan Bissett, president of the institute. “They’re using the libraries. They have them in bars and restaurants. They’re working with the schools and the local higher education facilities.”

Bissett traveled to Wilson County with a film crew last month to record testimonials from local leaders. The recordings, she said, are meant to show other communities how to successfully implement the kits.

“To see another Appalachian community embrace this has been incredible,” she said. “The fact that it is a more rural community — and how they’re making sure that boxes are in locations strategically placed throughout the community so that bystanders can respond — is incredible.”

Her comments were echoed by Joe Murphy, creator of ONEbox. Murphy said he came up with the idea after seeing his small West Virginia hometown “ravaged by drugs.”

“The way that every single organization we’ve talked to in this community has embraced it, from law enforcement to the public sector, is unbelievable,” he said. “You just don’t see this anywhere in the country.”

Kristen Kinney, circulation manager for Wilson County Public Library, gives an on-camera testimonial for a video about ONEbox.

Hill believes Wilson County could be a bellwether for other communities in North Carolina. He said officials from neighboring counties have already expressed interest in deploying ONEbox kits based on the successful rollout in Wilson.

“The goal is to create a model that can be replicated,” he said.

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

Fentanyl victims advocacy group holds educational, networking event in Lexington

LEXINGTON, N.C. —

A group of people who lost family members to fentanyl held an educational advocacy and networking event in Lexington.

On Saturday, the group “Fentvic” came together to start safety conversations within the community about the dangers of illicit fentanyl.

The group said they want to focus on counterfeit pressed pills, like Adderall, Xanax, and Percocet, as well as the access of life-saving naloxone in schools and the community.

Participants at the event had the option to bring posters of their family members to honor their loved ones they have lost to fentanyl abuse.

CDC data has ranked North Carolina 4th in the nation in fentanyl-related deaths last year. North Carolina data also shows a combined 2,615 fentanyl deaths between 2013 and Sept. 2023.

For more information on Fentvic and to see any of their upcoming events throughout North Carolina, visit their website here.

Read the full article and watch the video on the WXII News 12 website.

Davidson County families work to fight fentanyl together

DAVIDSON COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — Eight people in North Carolina die every day, because of fentanyl, according to the North Carolina Office of Chief Medical Examiner.

On Saturday, people who have lost someone to the deadly drug met other families, public officials, health advocates and law enforcement in Davidson County to work together to fight the fentanyl crisis.

“We want to educate people on this,” said Mike Loomis, a founder of Race Against Drugs.

Mike and his wife, Lorie started Race Against Drugs to be a support for families, after they lost their son, James. “You can’t get over something like that, it complete changes your life and we don’t want another parent to lose their child to drugs laced with fentanyl,” Lorie said.

Continue reading “Davidson County families work to fight fentanyl together”

‘We’re tired of telling parents that their children are dead due to fentanyl use’ | UCSO works to fight fentanyl crisis

Union County is working to get fentanyl test results back sooner.

MONROE, N.C. — WCNC Charlotte is putting a face to the fentanyl crisis. 

Recent trends show it’s killing people who don’t even know they’re taking it. 

A deadly dose is as small as the size of Abraham Lincoln’s cheek on a penny. 

Now, the Union County Sheriff’s Office is working to crack down on the drug, which is greatly impacting families.

“He just really had a special heart,” Union County resident Linda Hibbets said.

Hibbets, raised her grandson, 18-year-old Brian Terrano. He grew up loving adventures, sports, and anything to do with Gatlinburg. After a trip there, the next morning he was supposed to go to school. 

“I told my husband to help me get him off the bed, and I did CPR, I’m an RN, and I couldn’t save my grandson and that was really hard,” Hibbets said. “I’ve saved others, but I couldn’t save him, he was gone.”   

It’s a story UCSO Lieutenant James Maye has heard too often. 

Continue reading “‘We’re tired of telling parents that their children are dead due to fentanyl use’ | UCSO works to fight fentanyl crisis”

Resource officers are now the only ones to carry Narcan in Wake schools. Can this change?

Three years ago, Sophia Walsh was returning home after a fun weekend with friends river rafting in Boone.

On the drive back, she stopped at an acquaintance’s house to use the bathroom and get something to drink. An innocent act that had deadly consequences.

The water bottle she found in the refrigerator was poisoned with a dissolved fentanyl pill, according to investigators. An autopsy report found Walsh had 8.4 nanograms of fentanyl in her system, enough to kill four people.

Walsh overdosed on the drug. She was 24 years old.

TRAVIS LONG • TLONG@NEWSOBSERVER.COM
Samantha Brawley, a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, shows off the NARCAN nasal sprays and Fentanyl test strips that she carries while traveling in and around the Cherokee Indian Reservation where she offers support to people struggling with addiction. Ten percent of the tribe’s members received a substance-abuse diagnosis in 2012, the Cherokee Indian Hospital Authority reported in 2017.

Her family and friends remember the Apex High School and Appalachian State graduate as a passionate foodie, chef and nature lover, often photographing animals, plants and flowers.

“This individual did not have naloxone in their home and did not call 911,” said her mother, Barbara, in an interview. “It was not Sophia’s choice to die, and it was not her choice to ingest fentanyl.”

Since her daughter’s death, Barbara Walsh, has been raising awareness about fentanyl emergencies and working to increase the availability of the nasal spray drug naloxone, or Narcan, which reverses a drug overdose in two minutes. Her organization, Fentanyl Victims of North Carolina, highlights the many young people and their families affected by losses like her own.

Some leaders and advocates say the limited access to life-saving medication in schools should be expanded. Beyond school resource officers, advocates say, teachers, staff, school nurses and even students should have access to and be trained to administer the drug in case of an emergency.

“What is happening today is different than what happened 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 30 years ago. It’s different than when I grew up,” Walsh said. “We were able to experiment and live. Today, that’s not always the case. The stigma some people have about (drugs) is from another era.”

In Wake County, 1,499 people died from drug emergencies from 2013 to 2023, according to the N.C. State Center for Health Statistics. Of that number, 867 — or 58% of the deaths — involved fentanyl. Statewide, more than 36,000 people died from drug misuse from 2000-22.

The synthetic opioid created in the 1960s is often prescribed for pain, and studies show it is 100 times more powerful than morphine. Many young people encounter fentanyl when experimenting with marijuana, Adderall, heroin, cocaine or other pills like ecstasy or Xanax.

Continue reading “Resource officers are now the only ones to carry Narcan in Wake schools. Can this change?”

CMS acknowledges teen drug use, will stock all public schools with Narcan

Narcan is the FDA-approved nasal form of naloxone for the emergency treatment of a known or suspected opioid overdose. News & Observer file photo

Teens and drugs. The phrase has long gone together, but, nowadays, each puff passed, pill crushed and line sniffed threatens death, not a shaking finger.

In response to the bleak reality students face — where deadly opioids like fentanyl are easy to get and even harder to escape — the overdose reversal drug naloxone will soon be stocked in every Charlotte public school.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education unanimously approved the plan Tuesday, which was the first time the district openly addressed the topic of drug use among students.

Continue reading “CMS acknowledges teen drug use, will stock all public schools with Narcan”

Billboard Campaign: Who Dies Next?  fentvic.org hosts PSA Campaign

FIGHT FENTANYL to SAVE LIVES Digital Billboard Campaign

In Gaston, Mecklenburg, and Union Counties, NC
1/7—1/21/2024

CONTACT

Barb Walsh, Executive Director, 919-614-3830, barb@fentvic.org
Fentanyl Victims Network of NC (fentvic), 501(c)(3) EIN 88-3921380 www.fentvic.org
Contact Barb to schedule interviews with local fentanyl victim families

4 LOCATIONS: Gaston, Mecklenburg and Union County, NC (see below)
Gastonia, Gaston County: I-85 just north of Cox Road exit facing South
South Charlotte, Mecklenburg County: 1) I-77 Southbound, near Westinghouse Blvd 2) I-77 Northbound, north of I-485 interchange, 3/10 mile Arrowood Rd
Monroe, Union County: US-74 Walkup Avenue, faces east

DETAILS
  • 1/7@12am -1/21/24@11:59pm. Runs 24/7, digital and illuminated.
  • Hosted by fentvic.org, NC fentanyl victim families and corporate good citizen Adams Outdoor (Julie Belnap, Account Executive)
  • Features 15 NC fentanyl fatality victims killed by fentanyl 15 different ways.
  • 1/20/24 Family Summit on Fentanyl Fatalities: Public Safety, Awareness & Justice.
  • 10:30-3:30. Private Event for NC Fentanyl Victim Families & Press who pre-register. Separate press release to be issued.
PURPOSE:
  1. SAVE LIVES!
  2. Spark public safety conversations within communities and amongst families about the dangers of illicit fentanyl, particularly counterfeit pressed pills (Adderall, Xanax, Percocet)
  3. 7 out of 10 ‘street’ counterfeit pills contain lethal dose of fentanyl additives (DEA 2023)
  4. Raise awareness about 16,228 NC fentanyl fatalities, 2013-September 2023 (NC OCME)
  5. 1,615 fentanyl fatalities combined occurred in Gaston (311), Mecklenburg (1,118) and Union (186) 2013-Sept 2023 (source: NC State Center for Health Statistics, Vital Statistics Death Certificate Data)
  6. Links to fentanyl fatality data on fentvic.org website:
ABOUT
  • Fentvic is a charitable nonprofit located in Wake County NC. EIN #88-3921380
    • Fentvic is a action oriented grassroots nonprofit that promotes Public Safety, Education, Justice, Advocacy, and Support of NC fentanyl victim families in all 100 NC Counties