MONROE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — The Fentanyl Victims Network met Saturday morning to continue the fight against the deadly drug taking over the nation.
Families who lost loved ones in the fentanyl poisoning shared their stories and pictures in hopes of uplifting each other.
Debbie Dalton was one of them.
“There is no demographic; there is no person that is safe from this evil that is taking our children,” said Dalton.
In 2016, she lost her son Hunter to the drug after she said a good friend offered it to him.
“Hunter joked about it, like, ‘I don’t do this. I’m 23.’ He laughed about it. But unbeknownst to Hunter and his good friend, it was cut with fentanyl, and it gave my 6’2″ son a heart attack. He didn’t stand a chance against it. He was so strong that he survived for six days, and I held his hand, but he never regained consciousness,” Dalton said.
In his memory, she started the Hunter Dalton HD Life Foundation. Her mission now is to spare other families from going through the same heartache.
North Carolina is fourth in the nation in fentanyl deaths, but only 10th in population. Between September 2013 and September 2023, over 1600 people died from the drug in Gaston, Mecklenburg, and Union counties.
“Breaks my heart. We’re all here for the same reason and that’s because our child is dead. And the thing you realize is [that] nobody truly understands what you’re going through unless they too have gone through it,” said Barb Walsh. She’s the executive director of the Fentanyl Victims Network.
Walsh lost her daughter Sophia in August 2021 from diluted fentanyl in a water bottle. In her memory, she created the fentanyl victims network to educate other families about the effects of the drug and the justice system.
Recent adjustments to a North Carolina law regarding fentanyl deaths mean anyone providing certain drugs leading to a drug death can be prosecuted for second-degree murder.
“If I could just say one thing, it’s not you until it is. And the message that drugs are bad for you is no longer relevant. The message is drugs will kill you with today’s drugs that are out there. The best scenario is somebody that starts using drugs can hope for a life of addiction and the more likely scenario of their life,” Dalton said.