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NORTH CAROLINA (WTVD) — As parents and activists raise their voices for action on Fentanyl Awareness Day, new data from the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office shows the fentanyl problem is only getting worse in North Carolina.
In fact, there were more fentanyl-related deaths reported in just the first five months of this year compared to all of 2016 and 2017 combined. In the last twelve months in North Carolina, there have been 3,433 reported fentanyl-related deaths.
“We’re losing. we’re losing kids. We’re losing grandbabies. We’re losing sisters, brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles, and it’s unacceptable,” said Barb Walsh, Executive Director of the non-profit Fentanyl Victims Network of North Carolina.
Walsh lost her daughter, Sophia, to Fentanyl in August of 2021, after she drank a water bottle she didn’t know had fentanyl diluted in it. She said prosecutors’ decision not to press charges was crushing.
“It’s devastating to a family to know who killed your child and not be able to do anything about it,” said Walsh.
RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) — As fentanyl awareness and prevention day approaches, many people gathered for a rally at the state capital Sunday.
The rally was to help raise awareness about the innocent teenage victims who have died by unintentionally encountering fentanyl in fake prescription medications like Adderall, Xanax and Percocet.
According to the group, 13,671 North Carolina residents have been killed by Fentanyl in the past nine years, and eight NC residents die each day by Fentanyl.
Fentanyl Victims Network of North Carolina is also calling for an increase in salaries and hiring chemists to process toxicology reports and the investigation of drug-related deaths.
Monday will mark National Fentanyl Awareness and Prevention Day.
A group of activists rallied outside the State Capitol Sunday afternoon to push for tougher punishments for people who illegally distribute fentanyl.
If the bills pass, it would broaden who gets criminally prosecuted for distributing fentanyl. As it stands, North Carolina is one of the few states that has a death-by-distribution law.
That law allows district attorneys to prosecute people who sell drugs that lead to an overdose death.
The bills would allow district attorneys to prosecute people for not just selling drugs, but for general distribution, even if there is no money involved.
“They would see the person who killed their son, or daughter, or wife or cousin in the courtroom,” Executive Director of the Fentanyl Victims Network of North Carolina Barb Walsh said. “And there’s no words for that.”
Walsh and her group have been connecting family members of fentanyl overdose victims with one another to form a support group.
In the list of horrors that a parent might ever experience, losing one’s child because she unknowingly grabbed and drank a bottle of water laced with fentanyl has to be among the worst imaginable. And tragically, that’s what happened to a North Carolina woman named Barb Walsh in 2021 when her daughter Sophia died almost instantly from fentanyl poisoning.
Remembering Sophia today August 16, 2023.
CONCORD, N.C. — Families in Cabarrus County are pushing for justice for loved ones who have died from fentanyl.
Beth Abernathy said her son, Marshall Abbott, died due to fentanyl poisoning last year one day before his 30th birthday.
She attended a pretrial hearing Tuesday for Aaron Furr at the Cabarrus County Courthouse. Furr was charged in connection with the death.
Furr is one of five people in Cabarrus County who have been charged with felony death by distribution since the law went into effect in 2019.
NORTH CAROLINA — Some North Carolina families are waiting months, even a year, to find out how their loved one died due to the state’s autopsy backlog.
Lawmakers are trying to address this in several different ways, but it is all tied up in the looming budget right now.
Barbara Walsh is the founder of Fentanyl Victims Network of North Carolina, an organization for families of fentanyl victims. She said fixing the autopsy backlog is critical to getting families closure and justice.
For months, Walsh had no idea what killed her 24-year-old daughter Sofia who had just moved to Charlotte for a new job.
“She died because she drank a water bottle that had diluted fentanyl in it,” Walsh said.
Now, families she’s helping through her organization are waiting even longer, sometimes over a year, for toxicology results as the medical examiner’s office faces a massive backlog in autopsies.
Walsh is vocal about the state budget as some lawmakers have promised to help clear the autopsy backlog.
One of the new proposals would pay pathologists more to try and fill positions at the short-staffed medical examiner’s office, which has seen a 30% increase in cases. Cases involving suspected overdose deaths are up by 58%.