‘We are in the business of saving lives’ | NC leaders seeking solutions to the fentanyl crisis

State and local leaders held a press conference Wednesday to highlight strategies to mitigate the fentanyl epidemic in Mecklenburg County.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden, Attorney General Josh Stein and other federal, state, and Charlotte leaders are seeking solutions to the fentanyl crisis.

Sheriff McFadden hosted a press conference Wednesday at the Mecklenburg County Detention Center in order to highlight some of the work done to combat the rise in fentanyl-related deaths.

According to the United States Department of Justice, the number of fentanyl seizures in 2024 represents over 82 million deadly doses.

Around 10 people die in North Carolina every day because of fentanyl, according to Stein. 

During the press conference, leaders discussed efforts by the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office to train staff members on administering Narcan. These efforts saved over a dozen lives this past year. 

“People are dying from this drug thinking that they’re taking something simple, but it’s laced with fentanyl,” Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden said.

Also, in November of 2023, the Arrest Processing Center lobby received a Narcan vending machine, which is accessible to anyone. Additionally, Sheriff McFadden installed 39 Narcan alarm boxes that were placed in resident pods.

“Should Narcan be in schools? Absolutely. In every classroom? Absolutely. At every nightclub? Absolutely, why? Because we are in the business of saving lives,” Sheriff McFadden said. 

During the conference, officials said they’re cracking down on fentanyl distribution, by stepping up arrests and increasing prison sentences. 

District Attorney Spencer Merriweather says they’re working hard to prosecute people who supply fatal doses of fentanyl. 

“If we have a case and we can pinpoint exactly who it is, who supplied someone with poison and killed them, we will treat that like a killing,” Merriweather said. 

Attorney General Josh Stein spoke about his efforts to create change through legislation and an increase in funding to help local governments respond and address the crisis.

All leaders said that solving the problem starts with supply. 

“Seven out of every 10 street pills contain fentanyl,” CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings said. 

“We have to raise the cost of doing business for these drug trafficking organizations, and we have to reduce the demand for people who want to consume them,” Stein said. 

Meanwhile, one family is turning their pain into purpose. 

“He just was this light, and he was the funniest person I’ve ever known, will know, he made me smile every single day,” Debbie Dalton said. 

Unfortunately, for Debbie Dalton that smile was replaced with grief in 2016. Her son Hunter died from fentanyl at 23 years, after using a recreational drug, not knowing it was laced with the lethal painkiller. 

“There really aren’t words in the vocabulary to describe the pain,” Walton said.

Now, she’s started the Hunter Dalton #HDLife Foundation, to provide resources and education about the dangers of fentanyl. 

“Kids wouldn’t get in the car and go 70 miles an hour down 77 the wrong way and that’s what they’re doing when they try drugs in today’s culture,” Dalton said. 

She’s hopeful parents have conversations with their children around this subject, so there are no other victims because a lot of times people don’t know they’re taking fentanyl. 

“Losing him is so senseless, and so heartbreaking for so many of us. I want my son; I would give anything to be able to go back,” Dalton said.