‘North Carolina has a problem’: Task force discusses rise in child fentanyl deaths

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – More children in North Carolina are dying from fentanyl in recent years. The North Carolina Child Fatality Task Force took a closer look at those deaths and what could be done to prevent them during its meeting Thursday.

The N.C. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner Chief Toxicologist Sandra C. Bishop-Freeman shared the harrowing data with the task force.

“It has become clear that fentanyl is the first and foremost opioid that is currently causing illicit deaths in the pediatric population,” said Bishop-Freeman.

Bishop-Freeman said 108 North Carolina children died from fentanyl in the past decade, most of them are teenagers or are babies and toddlers.

“We have older individuals that are using the drug recreationally, either knowingly or unknowingly, and toddlers and infants that are finding the drug through exploration,” Bishop-Freeman said.

She said there’s been a huge increase in the past few years, with 35 fentanyl deaths in 2022 for teenagers and children below 5.

Marty McCaffrey sits on the state committee that reviews child deaths.

“It’s always been the worst meeting and the most horrific meeting I go to every month, but over the last couple of years I will say, if it’s possible, it’s gotten even more horrible,” McCaffrey said.

McCaffrey and others in the meeting said when it comes to solutions, safe storage is critical.

He suggests giving mothers who have known substance abuse issues secure boxes. He also suggests that after a mother gives birth hospitals should send her home with Narcan if doctors know the children in that home may be at risk for coming in contact with drugs.

“I mean, we’re going to have to accept, and really change our culture, about how we deal with some of these moms, all of these moms, with substance use, and recognize there’s good harm reduction strategies we have to start employing,” McCaffrey said.

Read the article and watch the video on the CBS17 website.

Teen’s death linked to fentanyl, Franklin Co. Sheriff says

18-year-old Jacob Cope died on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024. According to a Facebook post from Franklin County Sheriff Kevin White, Cope died from accidentally ingesting “the tiniest amount of fentanyl

According to a Facebook post from Franklin County Sheriff Kevin White, Cope died from accidentally ingesting “the tiniest amount of fentanyl.”

“His family is scarred forever,” White said.

Cope’s friend, 2023 Heritage High School graduate Wilson Moore, was also found dead that morning.

White said he keeps Cope’s photo in his office to remind him why he wanted to become Franklin County Sheriff.

“It hits close to home for me,” he said. “It will serve as a constant reminder of the passion I have to end the rapid decline that is eroding our neighborhoods, our state and our country.”

It is unclear if fentanyl ingestion is the cause of Moore’s death, but Moore’s mother suspects it is drug-related.

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

As opioid overdoses rise in NC, Wake schools looking to stock naloxone in all schools

The Wake school system hasn’t had any reported overdoses, but other school systems have.

Wake County school officials plan to recommend naloxone — the overdose reversal medication — in every school and a policy for staff on training and using it.

Superintendent Robert Taylor told the school board’s safety and security committee Tuesday that officials will come to the committee in April with a proposed policy and a timeline for getting naloxone in every school, early learning center and administrative office.

Naloxone is a prescription medication that reverses opioid overdoses. It targets opioid receptors in the body and blocks the effects of opioid drugs, restoring breathing in a person who has overdosed. It must be administered soon after an overdose has begun and only lasts a short time. It can be administered in several ways but is commonly administered as a nasal spray.

The Wake school system hasn’t had any reported overdoses, but other school systems have.

Last year, naloxone was administered 21 times for a suspected overdose at a North Carolina school, usually by a school resource officer.

The district wants to have naloxone in part because of rising opioid overdoses among 10- to 19-year-olds, said Kelly Creech, district senior director of health and crisis prevention services.

Across the state, school resource officers, not school employees, carry naloxone.

Any upcoming policy proposal would reflect training requirements for employees who want to be able to administer it.

On Tuesday, school board members asked questions about who would have the ability to administer naloxone.

Under state law, school systems must have permission from the state health director to allow non-medical employees to administer naloxone.

Most school systems don’t have a policy in place for school employees to administer naloxone. Of the 86 counties that responded to the state survey, 83 reported school resource officers carrying naloxone.

The school system wants two doses in about 200 schools, early learning centers and central services offices. The average dose lasts between two and three years.

Read the full article on the WRAL TV5 News website.


Senate Lawmakers Issue ‘Urgent Request’ to President Biden to Close De Minimis ‘Loophole’

Two U.S. senators penned an “urgent request” to President Joe Biden this weekend, pushing for the use of executive authority to end the de minimis trade “loophole.”

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Oh.) and Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fl.) on Saturday sent an open letter to the president asking him to end duty-free treatment for e-commerce shipments worth under $800-an exemption created by Section 321 of the Tariff Act.

According to the lawmakers, the rule is being exploited to facilitate “the import of illegal products, goods produced with forced labor, and other contraband to the detriment of U.S. manufacturers, workers and communities.” De minimis doesn’t just provide foreign shippers with financial benefits, they argued-it also allows bad actors to circumvent customs enforcement, as individual packages of lower value often enter the country “with minimal to zero inspections.”

The legislators said that Chinese goods made with forced labor “appear to be the heaviest users of de minimis, undermining enforcement of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA).” About 3 million parcels enter the country each day using the de minimis rule, and they pose an “elevated risk” of being made with forced labor, containing counterfeit products or contributing to the fentanyl crisis, as drugs have been smuggled in small, low-value shipments.

Continue reading “Senate Lawmakers Issue ‘Urgent Request’ to President Biden to Close De Minimis ‘Loophole’”

eBay and the Department of Justice settle over pill press sales

On January 31, 2024, eBay and the U.S. Department of Justice announced a settlement: In return for not prosecuting eBay for alleged violations of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) related to the sale of pill presses and encapsulating machines since 2015, eBay will pay $59 million and strengthen compliance programs around the sale of these machines on their platforms.

In a statement, eBay reiterated that the company “expressly denies the DOJ’s allegations and the settlement does not include any admission of wrongdoing.”

The Partnership for Safe Medicines has monitored the online pill press market for years, which means we have witnessed eBay’s efforts to successfully suppress the sale of these products on its platform. In light of this settlement, it is likely that other platforms that could be used to sell pill presses and encapsulating machines may ban these sales rather than undertake the burden of compliance. In the future, pill press sales will likely be confined to overseas platforms that are more difficult for U.S. regulators to reach.

This appears to be the first time that the U.S. Department of Justice has applied the “broker” role in this statute to an online marketplace for pill press or encapsulating machine transactions. This follows the Biden administration’s novel use of Treasury sanctions against Chinese pill press manufacturers in 2023.

Read the full analysis and the settlement document on the Partnership for Safe Medicines website.

Senators urge Biden to end duty-free treatment for packages valued at less than $800

WASHINGTON (AP) — Two U.S. senators looking to crack down on the number of packages from China that enter the country duty-free are calling on President Joe Biden to take executive action, saying U.S. manufacturers can’t compete with low-cost competitors they say rely on forced labor and state subsidies in key sectors.

U.S. trade law allows packages bound for American consumers and valued below a certain threshold to enter tariff-free. That threshold, under a category known as “de minimis,” stands at $800 per person, per day. The majority of the imports are retail products purchased online.

Alarmed by the large increase in such shipments from China, lawmakers in both chambers have filed legislation to alter how the U.S. treats imports valued at less than $800. Now, Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Rick Scott, R-Fla., have sent a letter to Biden calling on him to end the duty-free treatment altogether for those products.

“The situation has reached a tipping point where vast sections of American manufacturing and retail are at stake if de minimis is not immediately addressed,” the senators wrote.

Brown and Scott singled out Temu, Shein and AliExpress in their letter as companies that “unfairly” benefit from the duty-free treatment of their goods. The surge in shipments, they said, hurts big box stores and other retailers in the U.S.

“This out-of-control problem impacts the safety and livelihoods of Americans, outsourcing not only our manufacturing, but also our retail sectors to China, which — as you know — systematically utilizes slave labor among other unconscionable practices to undermine our economy,” the senators said.

The White House referred questions to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter provided to The Associated Press.

Continue reading “Senators urge Biden to end duty-free treatment for packages valued at less than $800”

Families, teams hurting from suspected drug-related deaths of 2023 Heritage, Bunn grads

A pair of recent Triangle-area high school graduates who were friends linked through their love of baseball died over the weekend.

Two young men who were friends and shared a love of baseball died over the weekend, devastating families and teammates.

Wilson Moore, a 2023 graduate of Heritage High, and Jacob Cope, who graduated from Bunn High in 2023, both passed away on Saturday.

Both Moore and Cope played on a travel baseball team and their respective high school teams before graduating. The two met through work and developed a friendship. The sudden nature of their deaths shocked and saddened friends and family in recent days.

Moore’s GoFundMe said the family suspects Moore died from “accidental substance poisoning.” Cope, 18, also has a GoFundMe to support his family.

Rolesville police are investigating. A toxicology report has not been finalized.

Continue reading “Families, teams hurting from suspected drug-related deaths of 2023 Heritage, Bunn grads”

Family navigates grief a year after son’s death

Barry and Lisa Bennett hold a graduation photo of their son, 22-year-old Mason Bennett, who died a year ago Thursday. Olivia Neeley | Times

After a fleeting moment of peace each morning, it doesn’t take long for the gut-wrenching reality to set in for Lisa Bennett.

“When you go to sleep and you wake up … you have this brief second where you think everything is fine and (then) it hits you over and over again, day after day,” she said through tears.

For Bennett, her reality is facing yet another day without her 22-year-old son, Mason Bennett. Thursday marks the first anniversary of his death. Bennett contends he died after taking what he believed was a 30 mg Percocet, a prescription painkiller.

“It wasn’t a Percocet,” Bennett said. “It was a pressed pill, which is mostly what’s being sold now. There was nothing else in it other than cocaine and fentanyl.”

Eight months after Mason’s death, Wilson police charged 21-year-old Claire Brittle in connection with his death. Brittle faces a felony death by distribution charge as well as several drug-related charges.

Police said Brittle was “responsible for selling the victim narcotics at the time of his death,” according to a Wilson Police Department press release. When police arrested Brittle in October, they found various drugs in her home, including “85 dosage units of pressed Percocet pills,” according to arrest warrants.

Brittle was also charged with felony possession of a Schedule II controlled substance. Arrest warrants indicate that charge relates to fentanyl possession.

Continue reading “Family navigates grief a year after son’s death”

Fentanyl victims advocacy group holds educational, networking event in Lexington


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.

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