Wake County School Board approves Naloxone policy, raises meal prices

Wake County Schools Tuesday meeting.

The Wake County School Board has approved a new policy regarding the use of an overdose-reversing drug and raised meal prices for the 2024-2025 school year.

Wake County Schools will join other North Carolina districts like Charlotte-Mecklenburg that have adopted a new policy on the emergency use of Naloxone.

The nasal spray, also known as Narcan, can help reverse opioid overdoses. The school board approved the policy on Tuesday.

Opioid Crisis in Wake County 

It will require up to at least three staff members in every school to learn how to use Narcan. The latest data from the Opioid Settlement chart shows 240 people died in 2021 due to opioid overdoses.

“All 200 Wake County Schools deserve to have naloxone,” said Barb Walsh, the executive director of the Fentanyl Victims Network of North Carolina. “It is no different than an EpiPen or an AED system or a fire extinguisher. It’s all life saving equipment.”

The new policy does not guarantee Naloxone at every school and it is also not required at activities held off school grounds. The Wake schools policy was also adopted ahead of a June 5 deadline to apply for county funding.

Read the original article on the WUNC Public Radio 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.

Breaking the silence: Nonprofits gather to raise awareness about fentanyl poisoning

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Non-profits from across the state gathered at Legion Stadium on Sunday to spread awareness about fentanyl poisoning.  

Attendees also had the chance to receive free Narcan—known generically as naloxone—which is a life-saving drug that can reverse the effects of fentanyl poisoning. 

Leslie and Duane Locklear lost two of their sons, Matt and Ryan Locklear to fentanyl poisoning in 2022. The couple started the Fight 4 Me Foundation in their sons’ memory. They said one of the biggest challenges with fentanyl education is the negative stigma.  

“A great number of people, for whatever reason, don’t want to talk about it. They just want to stigmatize it and push it to the side, and knowledge is power so we just took that calling upon ourselves to get out there and try to make people aware of how bad that problem really is,” Duane said. 

Barb Walsh of Fentanyl Victims Network of North Carolina lost her 24-year-old daughter Sophia after she drank from a water bottle laced with the synthetic drug. 

“She grabbed a water bottle out of the refrigerator, the water bottle contained eight nanograms of diluted Fentanyl. She died instantly. No Naloxone in the house. She was left for ten hours before 911 was called,” she said. 

Non-profits from across the state gathered at Legion Stadium on Sunday to spread awareness about fentanyl poisoning.  (Photo: Nate Mauldin/WWAY)
Read more: Breaking the silence: Nonprofits gather to raise awareness about fentanyl poisoning

At the event, rapper 22Jax and Ladydice shot a music video for their song “For Y’all,” which aims to break the stigma surrounding fentanyl education. 

“It’s bigger than everything that’s going on. It became very personal for me when I heard about the 19-month-old that did not wake up from her nap or his nap at the Airbnb, that’s insane. I have a 19-month-old at the house, so it really struck home,” 22Jax explained. 

Forgotten Victims of North Carolina Founder Patricia Drewes lost her daughter Heaven to fentanyl poisoning in 2018, leaving behind her son, Cameron. Drewes’ hope is that more parents like her will educate their children.  

“For God’s sake, educate your children. I had no idea. I wish I had known then what I know now. We have to educate our parents, we have to educate our children.”   

According to the North Carolina Chief Medical Examiner’s Office, since 2016, more than 15,000 North Carolinians have died from fentanyl poisoning.  

If you would like to know how obtain Narcan in case of a life-threatening emergency, New Hanover County Health and Human Services has a list of where to get Narcan locally for free, with insurance. 

Read the original article on the WWAY TV3 News website.

Local rapper hosts fundraiser and music video shoot for fentanyl awareness

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – Rapper 22Jax wants to give a voice to families who have lost loved ones because of fentanyl and spread awareness about the drug.

On Sunday in Legion Stadium, rapper Alexander Whittington, also known as “22Jax,” held a music video shoot and fundraising event for fentanyl awareness.

“The main purpose of this event is to inspire more people to speak up that felt as though they lost their voice or felt that the memory of their loved ones are lost,” said 22Jax.

Families remember their loved ones at fentanyl fundraiser and music video shoot(WECT)
Read more: Local rapper hosts fundraiser and music video shoot for fentanyl awareness

The music video shoot is for 22Jax’s new song “For Y’all” featuring musician LadyDice. The song was released earlier this month, and 40% of the song’s proceeds will go to organizations helping raise fentanyl awareness.

22Jax says it is more than just addiction and overdoses. “The insane thing is, all these things are happening and no one is doing anything, so I decided to use my platform to reach the youth and grab all of these organizations,” said 22Jax.

“It wasn’t until I really got involved with the song that I was really educated. The numbers and the statistics, it’s out of this world. I just feel like people need to know more and I am just trying to forward the education that I have received and try to save some lives,” said LadyDice.

Michiko’s Voice is a non-profit based out of Johnson County and is one of the organizations that will receive proceeds from For Y’all. Kamaya Duff lost her 23-year-old sister Michiko, who died from fentanyl poisoning.

Duff says her sister unknowingly took 29mg of fentanyl.

“When my sister passed we were lost, it took us 15-18 months to get her toxicology back,” said Duff.

Many families in attendance at the music video and fundraiser event say they waited months before finding out the cause of death of their loved ones. They say it’s a healing experience to be around other people who have experienced similar pain.

“There is no stigma, it can happen to anyone, first-time users, non-users, addicts. It can happen to anyone,” said Duff. “It can be any adult or child it happens to the innocent and the non-innocent,” she added.

The event also had free Naloxone and training to help prevent fentanyl poisoning and save lives. 22Jax says he appreciates the community support and hopes to keep spreading fentanyl awareness across the state and country.

“It’s overwhelming, I didn’t think the turnout would be so well,” said 22Jax.

Read the article on the WECT News 6 website.

2 charged after man found dead from fentanyl, cocaine overdose in Davidson Co., deputies say

Davidson County deputies said Dustin Kirby and Gavin Blackburn were charged in connection to a deadly fentanyl overdose case.

DAVIDSON COUNTY, N.C. — Two people were charged Monday in connection to a deadly drug-related overdose case in Davidson County, according to officials. 

The Davidson County Sheriff’s Office said on July 29, 2023, deputies were called to Holly Grove Lutheran Church on 212 Holly Grove Lutheran Church Rd. in Lexington about a man found dead in the parking lot. Investigators said evidence on the scene led them to believe it may have been related to a drug overdose. 

Detectives said after investigating for several months, they found out that 24-year-old Gavin Blackburn, of Thomasville, and 33-year-old Dustin Kirby, of Thomasville, supplied drugs to the victim before his death.

An autopsy report showed details that the victim died as a result of the toxic effects of fentanyl and cocaine.

On Monday, May 6, 2024, detectives found and arrested Blackburn and Kirby on a warrant for 2nd-degree murder death by distribution. 

Both are being held in the Davidson County Detention Center and are scheduled to appear in Lexington District Court on Monday, June 3, 2024.

Read the original story on the WFMY News2 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.

NC mother’s tale of daughter’s drugging goes viral

Glenwood Avenue and Cornerstone Tavern bustle with club-goers before 1 a.m. in the Glenwood South district on Friday, July 21, 2023.

BY JOSH SHAFFER
JSHAFFER@NEWSOBSERVER.COM

The phone rang at 3:30 a.m. on a Friday night, and Kelsey Walters woke to chilling news:

Her daughter and a friend took an Uber home from a Glenwood South bar, but by the time the ride ended, they were blacked out in the back seat — unresponsive when the driver tried to shake them awake.

The driver called 911 and EMTs found the two young women with pupils constricted to pinpoints, making the crackling sound of a death rattle. It took Narcan to revive them. When Walters got the call, they were recuperating inside a pair of ambulances, confused about everything.

Continue reading “NC mother’s tale of daughter’s drugging goes viral”

How Wake schools aim to ‘be as ready as we can be’ when opioid overdoses happen

Narcan is the FDA-approved nasal form of naloxone for the emergency treatment of a known or suspected opioid overdose. The Wake County school board is considering a policy to have naloxone at all schools. News & Observer file photo

Wake County schools could soon be stocked with Naloxone to treat potential opioid overdoses on campus.

The school board’s policy committee recommended on Tuesday new rules on emergency use of Naloxone. The policy requires schools to train people in how to administer Naloxone and directs Superintendent Robert Taylor to develop a program to place Naloxone at schools, early learning centers and district administrative offices.

“This is fantastic,” said school board member Sam Hershey. “This warms my heart we’re going in this direction. I think it’s crucial. At some point it’s going to hit, and we’ve got to be as ready as we can be.”

Continue reading “How Wake schools aim to ‘be as ready as we can be’ when opioid overdoses happen”

How Wake County will spend millions of dollars in opioid settlement money

Many people in recovery from drug use often need help finding a place to live.

Housing can be even more of a challenge if they lack familial support or struggle with mental-health issues. If they are recently incarcerated, they are 50 times more likely to overdose and die as a result.

Wake County leaders want to expand ways to help with $7.5 million in opioid settlement money next year.

Over the next 18 years, Wake County will get $65.6 million from the historic national opioid settlement. The money comes from companies that made or distributed prescription painkillers and were sued for their role in the millions of people who overdosed on opioids or became addicted.

North Carolina will be getting $1.5 billion.

“We’re serious about this; we’re excited about this,” said Wake Commissioner Cheryl Stallings, one of the leaders who spearheaded the effort. “We all now recognize how great this need is. Unfortunately, sometimes, it takes a real crisis to get our attention and I’m sorry that we’re in this place, but we have a great opportunity.”

Where is the $7.5 million going?

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

Continue reading “How Wake County will spend millions of dollars in opioid settlement money”