‘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. 

“We’re tired of telling parents that their children are dead due to fentanyl use,” Maye said. 

The Hibbets said Brian took what he thought was a different drug, not realizing it was fentanyl. 

“Somebody brought it to our house to give him,” Hibbets said. “He had a large amount of fentanyl in his system when they finally tested him.” 

UCSO is now working to try to get test results in a more timely manner. 

WCNC Charlotte got a look inside their crime laboratory on Thursday. From pulling texts off a smartphone to testing someone’s blood alcohol content levels, , the lab is testing evidence from crime scenes.

“It’s key for us to create a timeline for the victims’ last hours,” Maye said. 

There’s hope that they’ll soon be able to test for the deadly pain killer, fentanyl. 

Maye said these days, fentanyl is taking the lives of first-time users.

The latest data shows, that in Union County, 32 people died from opioids in 2023. That’s a 166% increase from the previous year, according to UCSO.

“What we’re seeing an increase in is street-pressed pills,” Maye said.

Maye says fentanyl tests are processed in Raleigh and it can take weeks or months to get results, which hurts investigations. North Carolina faces a backlog of testing, due to high demand, that’s why they’re working to be able to test for themselves. 

“We’re trying to find solutions that give families the justice they deserve and peace of mind that they need,” Maye said. 

Justice and peace of mind are something the Hibbets are yearning for, but it never gets easy. 

“He’d always tell us, you took care of me and now when you get older, I’m going to take care of you, I’ll always be there for you,” Hibbets said.

These days, they’re helping their broken hearts heal, hoping their story, will save someone else’s life. 

Officials say they’re hopeful approval to test for fentanyl and other drugs will come before 2025. 

Contact Lexi Wilson at lwilson@wcnc.com.