RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Fentanyl overdoses account for eight deaths per day in North Carolina.
Now, state officials are getting tougher on those who play a role in supplying it out to communities.
It starts with improvements at the state crime lab.
The renovated Drug Chemistry and Toxicology floor has more space, which means staff can be more efficient in testing evidence faster, to get to the prosecution stage.
While the lab will test evidence for all drugs and alcohol, officials told CBS 17 that Fentanyl is now the second-most substance they find.
It is devastating communities.
“She was so gentle and kind and caring of everyone,” Tracy Saunderson Ross said.
It has been seven months since her 16-year-old daughter died.
“What they thought was a Percocet ended up being a pure Fentanyl pill,” Ross said.
To honor her daughter, Abigail, she is fighting hard to put the people responsible in jail.
It’s a battle that first required lab testing.
“They bought six pills. She only had one in her system, and they found one in her room,” Ross said. “When [they] came back with the results and everything…it was enough Fentanyl to kill four grown men.”
Ross thinks there needs to be more testing done to help officials determine what is a Fentanyl-related overdose.
That’s one of the main goals for officials and scientists behind the newly renovated 19,000-square-foot laboratory in the North Carolina State Crime Lab in Raleigh.
“We’ve seen sort of an evolution of the drugs that people are taking, and so a death by distribution, or second-degree murder charges in our state, the lab is able to go in concert with the medical examiner’s office, able to help us prove what somebody took,” Bob Zellinger said, the Head of Special Prosecutions and Law Enforcement for the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office.
With a $5 million investment from lawmakers, the new lab has room for more staff and more equipment.
About 75 percent of the evidence submissions to the state crime lab require drug and alcohol testing.
“Our scientists will be able to test evidence swiftly and provide law enforcement with the analysis they need to get dangerous drug traffickers off of our streets,” Attorney General Josh Stein said.
During the ribbon cutting on Wednesday, he said it’s going to take teamwork, and the lab is just one part of his plan.
“If we create this Fentanyl control unit, we can support the work of local law enforcement and local district attorneys,” Stein said. “We can do these complicated long-term investigations and break up these drug trafficking rings that are devastating communities”
Finally, he said his department is asking for resources and for eight prosecutors, four of whom would be strictly devoted to the Fentanyl Control Unit work.