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North Carolina Changes Law to Address The Opiod Crisis

In 2018, 1718 North Carolina residents were killed due to overdose thanks to the reality of opioid abuse which has become so commonplace in our society. During that same year, at least 6,769 North Carolina residents were seen in emergency rooms across our state for opioid-related concerns according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. As many readers know, this opioid crisis affects a broad slice of families across the state without regard to race, religion, gender, or socioeconomic status and it is likely that you know someone affected by opioid abuse.

The use and abuse of these drugs affects us in the workplace, in our children’s schools, at church, community events, and certainly at our courthouses. If your coworker is dealing with an abuse problem, it affects their productivity and increases workload to others to cover for the coworker’s absence and performance. Our safety is impacted when these same individuals are working around us and operating equipment in a manner which puts our safety in jeopardy. Our children are impacted at school when dealing with the ramifications of a parent who is not capable of good parenting while on this track of abuse. The availability of drugs also makes our children susceptible to experimenting with drugs as they view the abuse of these drugs by the adults in their life. We are exposed to those whose faculties are impaired at church and community events. Finally, our courthouses are overwhelmed in dealing with the criminal charges that often accompany the use of opioids or criminal conduct by people in our communities who commit property crimes in order to generate the money necessary to sustain their addiction.

Local law enforcement, EMS workers, and other first responders now regularly carry, as a matter of course, overdose reversal drugs such as Naloxone because of the frequency and likelihood of encountering someone who has overdosed on opioids. In 2018, there were at least 3,372 individuals saved by first responders who likely would have added their names to the long list of people who have already died from overdose here in North Carolina.

In July of 2019, the North Carolina General Assembly passed and the Governor signed legislation to toughen the laws when someone distributes drugs that result in the death of another person. This law recently came into effect at the end of 2019. The Death by Distribution Act, House Bill 474 creates a new class C felony punishable by 44-231 months of incarceration if a person unlawfully sells a controlled substance (defined in the statute to include any opium, opiate, opioid, salts, cocaine, meth, or any combination of them) that causes the death if the substance is ingested, even if there was no malice. There is also a higher felony, a class B2, which is punishable by 94-484 months of incarceration if the person charged has a previous conviction for controlled substance violations within 7 years of the offense. That is 40 years in prison, and it lets you know the state of North Carolina is serious about punishing those who would distribute these drugs in our communities.

In addition to stepping up the punishment for distributing drugs that result in the death of another person, our state has also devoted resources to assist those dealing with addiction in an attempt to reduce the number of people who might seek out these very dangerous drugs. The program started in 2017, but was updated in June 2019 to provide additional federal funding to provide treatment to over 12000 North Carolina residents. Recent data reflects that the federal government has kicked in $54 Million to North Carolina through the Opioid Action Plan 2.0. This dual track of punishment for those who distribute and treatment for those who have become dependent on opioids aims to attack the issue from both ends with the hope of reducing the number of those affected.

So, why is a lawyer whose law firm represents people across the Carolinas that have been injured, suffered consumer harm, or are dealing with an employment law issues writing about the opioid crisis? The short answer is that we are just as concerned about this as you. We see it in our communities. We see it at the courthouse. We know families who are dealing with drug abuse issues. The lawyers and staff at the Law Offices of Jason E. Taylor are first and foremost, members of the community and recognize the need for all of us to look out for one another.

In representing people who have been injured in a car wreck or a motorcycle accident, the lawyers at the Law Offices of Jason E. Taylor see the devastating impact on families when drugs or alcohol take the life or seriously injures a member of our community. Our lawyers also see workplace injuries, otherwise referred to as workers’ compensation claims, which should never have happened because a member of our community is careless and negligent around the workplace due to a drug dependency issue. We see employment law issues involving members of the community who use poor judgment in the workplace due to a drug dependency issue.

Like you, we want the communities where we live and work to be safe for us and our children. We believe that by sharing this kind of information with you, we all become better citizens, better neighbors, better friends, and better lawyers. If you see someone dealing with a drug dependency issue, then use this link provided by North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services to locate help in your community for substance abuse.

As always, if you need us, the lawyers and professional staff at the Law Offices of Jason E. Taylor stand ready to assist you and your family anywhere in North Carolina or South Carolina. If you or someone you know has been injured, then rely on us to use our knowledge, skill, and experience to fight to hold people and their insurance companies responsible when you or someone you know has been injured.

Be safe. Look out for one another. Stop by if you are in the neighborhood so we can introduce ourselves. We look forward to being there for you when you need us.

Tim Burch

Attorney with the Law Offices of Jason E. Taylor

Greenville, North Carolina

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