‘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. 

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INSIDE LOOK: Union County crime lab’s crucial role in putting criminals behind bars quicker

UNION COUNTY, N.C. — Union County is working to speed up justice with its crime lab and newly accredited FIELDS of evidence, which means faster results while putting criminals behind bars and getting innocent people out.

Channel 9′s Hannah Goetz spoke with forensic chemists, crime scene investigators, and law enforcement officers on Thursday about the work they are doing, which is helping to cut back on the state lab’s backlog.

The digital forensic lab has equipment used to analyze things, such as text messages, which could lead to an arrest.

“It’s key for us to create a timeline of that victim’s last hours and this room does a great job of providing us that,” said Lt. James Maye.

The work in the digital forensic lab can help in cases of fentanyl poisoning to identify drug dealers.

“This evidence is used to determine which source provided the narcotics that ended the life of a victim,” Maye said.

The crime lab’s most recent accreditation was in the fall of 2023, which allowed officials to process fingerprints and blood alcohol testing on-site.

The blood alcohol analysis, which could be crucial in a DWI arrest, starts there where vials are filled and prepped for testing.

“The alcohol that’s in the blood will slowly go into the air above the sample,” said forensic chemist, Dayla Rich.

“So, you test not the blood, but the air that is coming out of it?” Goetz asked.

“Correct,” said Rich.

Running those tests in-house can provide results weeks or even months faster. Other local law enforcement agencies can use the lab too.

“Sheriff (Eddie) Cathey is encouraging everyone to bring us your phones, your blood, anything we can do to get criminals off the street bring it to us we’ll take care of it,” said Lt. Maye.

In the coming months, they’re hoping to be accredited in other fields of evidence analysis, including DNA, blood drug toxicology, and seized drugs.

The lab will not conduct autopsies on-site. That will be the responsibility of the regional medical examiner’s office.

The Union County Sheriff’s Office hopes to eventually do postmortem-blood-drug testing for death by distribution cases.

Read the full article and watch the video on the WSOC TV9 website.

‘No person that is safe’: Families continue the fight against fentanyl during victim summit

MONROE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — The Fentanyl Victims Network met Saturday morning to continue the fight against the deadly drug taking over the nation.

Families who lost loved ones in the fentanyl poisoning shared their stories and pictures in hopes of uplifting each other.

Debbie Dalton was one of them.

“There is no demographic; there is no person that is safe from this evil that is taking our children,” said Dalton. 

In 2016, she lost her son Hunter to the drug after she said a good friend offered it to him.

“Hunter joked about it, like, ‘I don’t do this. I’m 23.’ He laughed about it. But unbeknownst to Hunter and his good friend, it was cut with fentanyl, and it gave my 6’2″ son a heart attack. He didn’t stand a chance against it. He was so strong that he survived for six days, and I held his hand, but he never regained consciousness,” Dalton said.

In his memory, she started the Hunter Dalton HD Life Foundation. Her mission now is to spare other families from going through the same heartache.

North Carolina is fourth in the nation in fentanyl deaths, but only 10th in population. Between September 2013 and September 2023, over 1600 people died from the drug in Gaston, Mecklenburg, and Union counties.

Continue reading “‘No person that is safe’: Families continue the fight against fentanyl during victim summit”

Union Co. opioid overdose deaths up 166% in 2023, mostly from fentanyl

Law enforcement says many of the 32 deaths in 2023 were first-time users who didn’t know they were taking fentanyl.

ONROE, N.C. (WBTV) – A 166% increase in opioid deaths happened in Union County last year, with fentanyl being the main factor.

The Union County Sheriff’s Office wants families to be aware that many of the victims are not serious drug users, but rather first-time users who may not even know they’re taking fentanyl.

According to the Union County Sheriff’s Office, 32 people died from opioid overdoses in 2023. That’s 166% higher than the previous year. Additionally, overdose calls were up 17% in the county at 170 in total.

Union County Sheriff’s Lt. James Maye said that it’s important for people, especially parents, to be aware of the hidden dangers of fentanyl. First, it’s incredibly potent.

“Powdered fentanyl, you’re talking about an amount less than the size of a penny could end a person’s life,” Maye said.

Those taking fentanyl often aren’t even aware they’ve done so.

“It’s often not your longtime drug user,” Maye said. “It may be one of your teenagers, a local student. They may want to try something like Xanax or Adderall, but it could be fentanyl and they don’t even know it.”

Continue reading “Union Co. opioid overdose deaths up 166% in 2023, mostly from fentanyl”
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