Wilson County deploys overdose reversal kits to combat epidemic of opioid deaths 


By Jaymie Baxley

Small purple boxes have become a promising tool in Wilson County’s fight to lessen the deadly toll of the opioid epidemic. 

ONEbox is a first aid-like kit that contains doses of naloxone, a nasal spray that can rapidly reverse the effects of opioid overdose. When the kit is opened, a screen embedded in the lid plays a video of a paramedic giving step-by-step instructions for administering the drug.

“Let’s take a deep breath,” says the woman in the video, speaking in either English or Spanish, depending on the language selected. “Step No. 1 is to check to see if somebody really is unresponsive. You can do that by gently shaking them or shouting, or you can use your knuckles against the sternum to see if you get a reaction.”

Dozens of the kits have been placed in strategic locations throughout Wilson County in recent weeks. Jeff Hill, executive director of the Wilson County Substance Prevention Coalition, said he wants the boxes to become so ubiquitous that “any layman will know what it is, know how to identify it and know how to use it.”

“At the end of the day, we understand that anybody in the right place, right time and right scenario can become, or needs to become, a first responder,” he said. “Wherever I can’t be, a ONEbox can — and that could be the difference between life and death.”

Joe Murphy, left, Susan Bissett and Jeff Hill in front of the Wilson County Public Library, one of more than 60 local sites where ONEbox kits have been distributed since February.

‘Community of first responders’

Hill first encountered ONEbox at a conference last year in Washington, D.C. Impressed with the kit’s lifesaving potential, he brought back a sample to show county officials.

“My initial reaction was, ‘Wow, it is so compact and it gives you everything that you need — all the tools that you need — to help save a life,’” said Lori Winstead, deputy manager for Wilson County. “With this system, you kind of avoid that fear of not knowing what step comes next. It puts you at ease, and that’s important in an emergency situation.”

At the time, Winstead was working on a spending plan for Wilson County’s first tranche of funding from a landmark settlement with the pharmaceutical companies that stoked the national opioid epidemic. Money from the settlement, which brings $7.5 million to the county over the next 18 years, can only be spent on services and strategies that address the crisis. 

ONEbox fit the bill. In April 2023, the Wilson County Board of Commissioners agreed to buy 200 kits for $40,000. Hill’s coalition received the kits in February and began distributing them to local nonprofits, government agencies and businesses such as Casita Brewing Co. and Thomas Drug Store. 

He said the demand was “greater than we expected.” The coalition ran through its initial supply within three weeks, prompting the county to order another shipment of 200 kits.

“I think it caught on so fast because the community bought into being a resource,” said Hill, adding that Wilson is the first county to deploy the kits in North Carolina. “Our quote here in Wilson County is ‘we’re a community of first responders, not a community dependent on them.’” 

Unlike many of the state’s rural counties, Wilson has seen a decrease in fatal overdoses. The latest available data from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services shows that Wilson County had 30 overdose deaths in 2022, down from 37 deaths a year earlier. 

The use of naloxone rose over the same period. The Wilson Times reported that local paramedics administered naloxone to 105 patients in 2022, a 34 percent increase from the previous year. That number does not include doses administered by other public safety agencies and civilians. 

Hill said the kits are part of a larger effort to improve community access to lifesaving interventions. He noted that Wilson County’s Board of Education approved a policy last May requiring every school in the district to keep a supply of naloxone. 

“That’s very rare because most people would view that as, ‘Oh, no, we have a drug problem,’” he said. “That’s not what our school system is saying. What they’re saying is the same way we have an AED and a first aid kit on site, God forbid, in case of emergency, we want to make sure that we have naloxone to protect the sanctity […] and the livelihood of our students.”

Another example, he said, is Wilson Professional Services, a local medication-assisted addiction treatment center that offers free naloxone to anyone who requests it. The facility also provides training so people know how to properly administer the drug. 

Naloxone has been readily available for years at community hubs like the Wilson County Public Library, where a staff member used it to save the life of a man who overdosed in 2022. 

The intersection of Barnes and Goldsboro streets in downtown Wilson. Jeff Hill, executive director of the Wilson County Substance Prevention Coalition, said the community has been quick to embrace ONEbox.

Creating a model  

The county’s swift adoption of ONEbox has not gone unnoticed by the kits’ distributor, the West Virginia Drug Intervention Institute

“Wilson has certainly been one of the more comprehensive approaches that we’ve seen,” said Susan Bissett, president of the institute. “They’re using the libraries. They have them in bars and restaurants. They’re working with the schools and the local higher education facilities.”

Bissett traveled to Wilson County with a film crew last month to record testimonials from local leaders. The recordings, she said, are meant to show other communities how to successfully implement the kits.

“To see another Appalachian community embrace this has been incredible,” she said. “The fact that it is a more rural community — and how they’re making sure that boxes are in locations strategically placed throughout the community so that bystanders can respond — is incredible.”

Her comments were echoed by Joe Murphy, creator of ONEbox. Murphy said he came up with the idea after seeing his small West Virginia hometown “ravaged by drugs.”

“The way that every single organization we’ve talked to in this community has embraced it, from law enforcement to the public sector, is unbelievable,” he said. “You just don’t see this anywhere in the country.”

Kristen Kinney, circulation manager for Wilson County Public Library, gives an on-camera testimonial for a video about ONEbox.

Hill believes Wilson County could be a bellwether for other communities in North Carolina. He said officials from neighboring counties have already expressed interest in deploying ONEbox kits based on the successful rollout in Wilson.

“The goal is to create a model that can be replicated,” he said.

This article first appeared on North Carolina Health News and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Fentanyl Awareness Day @ NC General Assembly 5/1/24 fentvic.org

Be Seen ~ Be Heard ~ Be Remembered ~ Save Lives

DateWednesday 5/1/24
10 am press conference (outside) followed by visits with their Representative and Senator.
LocationNorth Carolina Legislative Building
16 West Jones Street
Raleigh NC 27601

Please RSVP to attend the event (optional).

Sounding the alarm on fentanyl: Meet-up in Winston-Salem helps provide support to impacted families

Families who have lost loved ones to fentanyl throughout the state have the opportunity to come together in Winston-Salem Saturday, in an effort to seek support and also raise awareness.

Harnett Man Linked To Fentanyl Deaths Of 4 People, Authorities Say

HARNETT COUNTY – A Harnett County man with a history of law enforcement interaction for the past 20 years has been indicted by a grand jury for distributing fentanyl that killed four people on the morning of March 28, 2020.

The jury returned a true bill of indictment on Feb. 26 charging Gerard LaSalle McLean, 37, of 446 Raynor McLamb Road, Bunnlevel, with four counts each of death by distribution and aggravated death by distribution.

“There were two scenes,” explained Harnett County Sheriff’s Office Maj. Aaron Meredith. The first victim, Shannon Lynette McLean, was located at 112 Blake St. in Lillington at 12:49 a.m. Three other victims were found dead in a car located at 242 Nutgrass Road in Bunnlevel at 7:37 a.m.

There were others who overdosed at both locations and survived,” Meredith shared.

The indictment alleges Gerard McLean sold fentanyl to a person identified as Courtney McLean. Investigators say this substance was ingested by Shannon McLean and she died as a result.

While looking into this indictment, the Record learned that Gerard McLean has three other related indictments stemming from his alleged distribution of fentanyl in March 2020.

Lt. R.S. Jackson, of the Harnett County Sheriff’s Office and a homicide detective in the criminal investigation division, charged Gerard McLean with three counts of death by distribution on March 28, 2020. He was arrested on May 6, 2020. He has been held under a $600,000 secured bond since that time. Based on this arrest and a prior drug conviction in Cumberland County, the jury agreed on charges of aggravated death by distribution in the deaths of Shannon McLean, Ervin Bass Jr., Laketa Vinson and Brittany Shaw.

The last three indictments were returned on July 6 and served on Gerard McLean in the Harnett County Detention Center the following day.

The indictments allege that the fentanyl was purchased from Gerard McLean by Brittany Shaw and ingested by Bass, Vinson and Shaw, resulting in their deaths.

All four of Gerard McLean’s alleged victims died on March 28, 2020.

Continue reading “Harnett Man Linked To Fentanyl Deaths Of 4 People, Authorities Say”

Non-profit to offer naloxone to Dreamville attendees


Dreamville Music Festival organizers are ensuring attendees can have a good and safe time on Saturday and Sunday. On Monday, the festival announced they will have naloxone kits available at the festival.

Dreamville Music Festival organizers are ensuring attendees can have a good and safe time on Saturday and Sunday.

On Monday, the festival announced they will have naloxone kits available at the festival.

Naloxone is a drug that counteracts the effects of an opioid overdose. It is sold under the brand name Narcan.

Dreamville is partnering with This Must Be The Place to help distribute the kits. The group is a non-profit that helps distribute kits for various events, ranging from music festivals like Coachella and Lollapalooza to awards shows like the Grammy Awards.

“It is our goal to normalize naloxone and other overdose prevention tools in every corner of the country, because only then can we curb the deaths that continue to be caused by this unfortunate epidemic,” The charity said on its website.

William Perry with Be the Place said this is the third year the charity has worked at festivals to provide naloxone.

“We have passed out 50,000 of these kits, that resulted in 100 [out of] 100 overdose reversals,” Perry said.

Perry said while they may work out of festivals, they wanted to emphasize festivals are the best places to get the life-saving drug into the hands of people.

“You are going to have folks from all over coming into the Dreamville Festival [and] we can catch them when they are in one place. Due to a lot of barriers, they haven’t gotten the stuff,” he explained. “You’d rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it.”

Dreamville isn’t the only place offering or considering having naloxone.

In February, Wake County Public School System leaders said they recommend the drug in every school and a policy to train staff to use it. A month later, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first naloxone over-the-counter nasal spray, which hit shelves in September.

In Edgecombe County, the county jail will have a vending machine for Narcan.

Perry said he hopes the charity and its presence at Dreamville will help destigmatize the need for naloxone and help access the drug, which can be difficult to find.

“This is normalizing the care of others, which has been so impactful,” Perry said.

Perry said the group will distribute the naloxone near one of the entrances of the festival grounds, and graduate students from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill will assist them.

‘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. 

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

Fentanyl Awareness Day @ NC General Assembly 5/1/24 fentvic.org

Be Seen ~ Be Heard ~ Be Remembered ~ Save Lives

DateWednesday 5/1/24
10 am press conference (outside) followed by visits with their Representative and Senator.
LocationNorth Carolina Legislative Building
16 West Jones Street
Raleigh NC 27601

Please RSVP to attend the event (optional).

Mother shares story about son’s battle with addiction for millions to see during NCAA Tournament

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. —

While millions of people are watching the NCAA Tournament, Forsyth County is hoping their ad about a mother who lost her son to addiction, will spread awareness.

The ad created by Forsyth County Behavioral Health Services starts with mother Stephanie Lynch telling her story about what happened to her 27-year-old son Evan who died in 2020 after battling addiction.

Lynch said Evan was injured on a job and given oxycodone by his doctor. She says he became addicted to the opioids and once he could no longer get the pain pills, he started using heroin.

Lynch said Evan went to rehab several times and struggled. It’s something she says he couldn’t stop.

“Evan hated being addicted to opioids, he hated it. He would tell me, ‘you know, mom, I don’t want to die as a drug addict, I don’t want that to be what people remember me for,'” Lynch said.

On April 11, 2020, Evan died from Fentanyl poisoning.

Although he lost that fight, Lynch said he’s no longer in pain and is at peace now.

Her hope is his story will help others.

“His death maybe was not in vain that, you know, his story can help someone else going through the same thing be able to get help or see that they need help or a family member to see that they need help,” Lynch said.

Now Lynch and her son’s story will be displayed for millions of people to see throughout the month of March during NCAA tournament coverage.

“It’s devastating to lose someone you know to substance abuse. It just destroys your whole family. So if there’s anything I can do to help anyone, I’m always willing to do that,” Lynch said.

Annie Vasquez, a Substance Use Health Educator said the ad was created to show the realities of the opioid epidemic in Forsyth County and everywhere.

“The reality is that it touches every single age group, every single race, gender and zip code,” Vasquez said.

Vasquez said in addition to this ad, they have another one airing that’s centered around pills.

Anyone struggling with addiction or knows someone struggling with addiction can reach out to Forsyth County Behavioral Health Services for help.

Read the full article and watch the video on the WXII 12 News website.

NC mom campaigns to put ‘Narcan’ in state schools

Barbara Walsh, founder of Fentanyl Victims Network of North Carolina, has efforts underway to put Fentanyl reversing drug Naxolone or ‘Narcan’ in all state schools.

Barbara Walsh, founder of Fentanyl Victims Network of North Carolina, has efforts underway to put Fentanyl reversing drug Naxolone or ‘Narcan’ in all state schools.

What is Fentanyl?

It’s a powerful synthetic opioid that is similar to morphine but 50 to 100 times more potent.

While it is a prescription drug, it also can be made and used illegally.

When used properly, fentanyl treats severe pain like after surgery.

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, synthetic opioids like fentanyl are now the most common type of drugs involved in overdoses in the U.S.

Finding Solutions

Wake County resident, Barbara Walsh’s life changed forever in 2021. Her 24-year-old daughter died from fentanyl poisoning after unknowingly drinking a bottle of water laced with the drug. 

Because of that unfortunate event, Walsh is now leading efforts to get fentanyl out of the hands of minors and put Naloxone on the shelves of schools in North Carolina. 

The Fentanyl Victims Network of North Carolina or ‘Fent Vic’ for short was created as a grassroot campaign against illicit fentanyl in North Carolina. 

RELATED: 8 pounds of fentanyl-laced meth found on Reidsville man

Walsh’s network speaks and connects with families who have lost loved ones to the fentanyl drug. 

Currently, Walsh is pushing for the opioid reversal medication Naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan, to be available in every school in our state. Her efforts are across all 100 counties of our state.

“We’re seeing a lot of adolescents experimenting or unknown to them or experiencing fentanyl crisis and their lives could be saved if Naloxone which is the antidote to the fentanyl emergency is administered,” Walsh said. 

Since Walsh’s efforts began in December 2023, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has added naloxone to its first aid kits at every school. Nurses and at least two first responders at each school are to be trained in how to use it.

The Fent Vic organization will be holding a meetup on April 14 in Winston-Salem. For more information, click or tap HERE

Fentanyl Crisis in the Triad

Here in the triad, there are efforts underway.

State and local leaders addressed the opioid and fentanyl crisis alongside local leaders in February.

A combined $89 million dollars is going to fight the crisis in the Triad. $47 million dollars of that federal money is coming to Greensboro and Guilford County. Another $42 million dollars heads to Forsyth County and Winston-Salem.

The money is earmarked to help prosecute drug suppliers, and decrease demand thru recovery services.