Families Mourning Fentanyl Deaths Take Fight to Capitol
Like several US states, North Carolina has been hard hit by the fentanyl epidemic. In the past nine years, 13,671 North Carolinians have overdosed on fentanyl. That makes eight people a day who lost their lives, leaving behind friends and family. So far, 1,116 fentanyl-positive overdose deaths have already occurred in North Carolina. Now, friends and families of people who died by overdose aim to be more than statistics, bringing their cause of harm reduction and more accessible drug treatment to the North Carolina state capital this month.
Families with The Fentanyl Victims Network of North Carolina plans to visit the capitol to advocate for multiple prongs in the war on opioids: early intervention, more substantial penalties for drug dealers, more funding for treatment, naloxone, and toxicology reports. Families want their loved ones' deaths to change policies and help save lives.
Families Say Full Scope of Fentanyl Problem Is Hidden
In North Carolina, families say, death certificates often don't declare a death caused by fentanyl. Because of this, the waters are muddied for overdoses and how the data is collected.
Fentanyl, as a relatively new drug, doesn't have its specific code for involvement in a drug overdose. Instead, fentanyl is labeled "other synthetic narcotic overdose," just as Oxycontin and other pharmaceuticals like Tramadol are labeled. Hospital-stolen fentanyl (which is rare), as well as street-sold fentanyl, would both fall under this label. Families say that the true story of fentanyl is being hidden in these codes.
Advocating for Stiffer Fentanyl Penalties
Families involved in the Fentanyl Victims Network of North Carolina say that drug dealers are also a part of the larger problem. Stiffer penalties for selling drugs laced with fentanyl and the drugs themselves are being considered in the North Carolina legislature.
The Fentanyl Victims Network is asking them to pass either Senate Bill 189 or Senate Bill 250. Both bills contain higher penalties for drug dealers who distribute a drug that subsequently causes a death. If either bill passes, the state's existing Death by Distribution law will change.
If passed, SB 189 will also increase fines for selling and trafficking heroin, fentanyl, and carfentanil. Additionally, it would strengthen Good Samaritan immunity laws so that people are unafraid to call the police when they witness an overdose, even if they are high, too.
Advocating for Medication-Assisted Treatment
Many family members want Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) available to their loved ones. According to the FDA, it is considered the gold standard in treatment for opioid use disorder. However, only one in five people who qualify for the treatment can access it.
MAT for opioid use disorder typically includes naltrexone, methadone, and buprenorphine. While a person takes medication, their cravings are significantly reduced, allowing them to focus on understanding their addiction and learning to rebuild their life in recovery.
MAT treatment is often covered by insurance, including Medicaid, but many people in rural and impoverished areas struggle to find a treatment provider. Expanding the use of MAT and providing incentives can help bridge a gap in tools to help more people access long-term recovery.
Multipronged Approaches in Communities
Many communities in North Carolina have been given money specifically to help create more treatment and recovery opportunities, yet the need persists. Opioid settlement money is meant to help reduce harm, drug education, and treatment.
Even with resources, some people don't get the help they need, especially when they face stigma or fear state services in their lives. Single mothers, for example, may forego treatment when they don't have childcare available.
Families know their loved ones often need strong interventions to improve their lives. Resources such as housing, therapy, relapse prevention, and job programs help addicted people stay on their feet. Marginalized populations often need more than one service for a person to feel stable in their recovery. Hopefully, more money will also continue to go into prevention and harm reduction.
Getting Help for Opioid Use Disorder
If you or somebody you love needs help with their opioid use, we're here to provide it. Many people find that treatment or therapy alongside Medication-Assisted Treatment helps them feel stable and focus on themselves in early recovery. Learn more about how we can help by giving us a call.
If you are in need of help, please call us at: 910-295-7246 or message us.