RALEIGH N.C. (WNCN) — Wednesday, the Food and Drug Administration approved lifesaving medication to combat the opioid crisis.
While families of fentanyl victims in North Carolina are praising the decision, they say there’s more to do on a state level to prevent deaths.
Barb Walsh’s 24-year-old daughter, Sophia, died in 2021 after drinking from what she thought was a typical water bottle, instead it had dissolved fentanyl inside.
Walsh created the Fentanyl Victims Network to connect families impacted in the state.
“Every night I call five families because I want to talk to them,” Walsh said. “To collect these people and let them know that they’re not alone and they need to join us. We are stronger together.”
Walsh said over-the-counter naloxone, also known as Narcan, will allow widespread access to have in cases of emergencies.
“Having it available over the counter without a prescription is going to mean moms like me can go buy ten and make sure not only my kids are stocked, but my kid’s friends are stocked,” Walsh said.
Among the network of young victims was Abigail Saunderson. Wednesday would have been her 17th birthday.
“Growing up she was just this little ball of light,” Saunderson’s mother Tracy Ross said. “She was a straight A student, she was happy all the time. She just had a leg problem.”
Ross said Saunderson died in September after taking what a dealer said was a standard pain pill for her chronic leg spasms, instead it was fentanyl.
Ross was unaware until the next morning and administered Narcan.
“I gave her the only two doses I had while I continued CPR until the EMTs got here but she was too far gone,” Ross said. “It’s everywhere and parents need to be aware of what’s going on. I believe every household in the United States should have Narcan.”
Parents like Walsh and Ross are pushing for even more proactive measures from state leaders.
Currently, two bills in the state General Assembly aim to hold distributors accountable. SB 206 would expand felony penalties for anyone making counterfeit pills to include the possession of any pill-making paraphernalia. SB 189 would increase fines for those convicted of trafficking opioids, as well as, increase death by distribution penalties. Both bills have passed the Senate.
In Saunderson’s case, two men have been charged with death by distribution.
“I believe that anybody that sells a pill that kills anyone should be charged with death by distribution,” Ross said.