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As I See It: Fentanyl and opioid crisis in California need to be addressed immediately

As early as 2017, the problem already existed with synthetic opioids having increased by 1,027% and fentanyl has been blamed for the deaths of 20% of California’s teenagers and young adults (Wikipedia). And… over 80,000 Americans may have overdosed on opioids in 2021, with higher than 11,200 of those fatalities occurring in California, as reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Also, according to California Health Policy Strategies statistics, drug overdoses are now two to three times more fatal than state car accidents.

There was already a problem in California at that time, but why only now that it is being addressed? It should have been acted upon to contain it… Well, it’s never too late, so they say… so we need to address it… quickly!

Wow, these are significant figures we can’t just brush aside and let go. Something must be done to address them!

No wonder, schools and other educational institutions are conducting their own trainings, both for staff and students about the crisis and making available Narcan in their health offices for everybody to avail of. The awareness factor and the actual presence of Narcan in specified areas/offices/departments in campus serves an assurance for the educational community to saving the lives of their students and staff.

California Governor Gavin Newsom was alarmed by said statistics, so he came out with a master plan for tackling the fentanyl and opioid crisis. He is also taking legal efforts to tackle the opioid issue, including patrols, assistance grants, and education.

The governor, we were informed, has invested over $1 billion to tackle the crisis. Through CalRx, California will seek to manufacture its own Naloxone. Master plan provides comprehensive approaches to save more lives.

Following a visit to the San Ysidro Port of Entry in San Diego county, Governor Gavin Newsom released his administration’s Master Plan after recognizing the opioid and fentanyl crisis as a multifaceted public health and public safety issue.

Governor Newsom’s Master Plan provides a comprehensive approach to save lives. The Master Plan builds on the Governor’s $1 billion investment to tackle this crisis — including an expansion of California National Guard-supported operations that last year led to a 594% increase in seized fentanyl. The Master Plan outlines aggressive steps to support overdose prevention efforts, hold the opioid pharmaceutical industry accountable, crack down on drug trafficking, and raise awareness about the dangers of opioids, including fentanyl.

According to Gov. Newsom, over 150 people die every day in our nation from overdoses and poisonings related to synthetic opioids like fentanyl. That figure is alarming!

Fellow Californians, with this Master Plan, California is doubling down to combat this crisis and save lives. Our comprehensive approach will expand enforcement efforts to crack down on transnational criminal organizations trafficking this poison into our communities — while prioritizing harm reduction strategies to reduce overdoses and compassionately help those struggling with substance use and addiction.”

The crack down on opioid trafficking, aside from enforcing the law, will combat overdoses, support those with opioid use disorder, and raise awareness about the dangers of opioids. The Master Plan provides a comprehensive framework to deepen the impact of these investments — including through a new CalRx effort where California will seek to manufacture its own opioid overdose reversal drug Naloxone.

The  governor’s move is a catch up project because California will further save lives through an additional $96 million in funding in the Governor’s 2023-24 proposed budget: $79 million for the Naloxone Distribution Project to meet increased demand and provide more Naloxone to communities than ever before; $10 million for grants for education, testing, recovery, and support services; $4 million to make fentanyl test strips more widely available; and $3.5 million in Prop 98 funding to provide overdose medication to all middle and high schools.

These new investments, coupled with the extensive abatement, enforcement, and treatment efforts outlined in the Master Plan will save lives and make California safer.

We were likewise informed that the U.S. has faced an evolving crisis of opioid addiction, overdose, and death for over two decades, driven by Big Pharma’s irresponsible marketing of prescription opioids – bringing us to today’s fentanyl crisis. Millions of Americans suffer from opioid use disorder and more than 71,000 Americans died in 2022 alone from fentanyl-linked overdoses and drug poisonings. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, a vast majority   of fentanyl in the U.S. comes via ports of entry at the border – through trafficking by organized crime rings, not by migrants.

Under Governor Newsom’s leadership, and through the state’s efforts to hold Big Pharma accountable, California has worked aggressively to tackle the opioid crisis. I laud him for that!

In the current fiscal year alone, the California Health and Human Services agency is investing $450 million in treatment, abatement, and prevention efforts. The 2022 Budget Act Governor Newsom signed into law included $30 million to expand the California Military Department’s existing drug interdiction efforts to thwart drug-trafficking transnational criminal organizations throughout the state, with a particular focus on assisting federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies in combatting fentanyl. To support the Governor’s initiative to reduce deadly fentanyl in communities, the California National Guard has hired, trained, and embedded 144 new members.

Aside from the Governor’s efforts, opioid overdose prevention workshops are scheduled at the County Library locations provided by the country’s Behavioral Health Services Department and hosted by the Santa Clara County Library, according to Mariana Walker, Santa Clara County Library District spokesperson. The Santa Clara County Library District (SCCLD) and the County of Santa Clara’s Behavioral Health Services Department (BHSD) are joining forces to spread the word about the opioid crisis, empowering residents with important information about the dangers of fentanyl and other opioids. These workshops, scheduled from July 8 through September 9, will cover drug education, including recognizing an opioid overdose, and will provide training with the over-the-counter medication Naloxone nasal spray (commonly known as Narcan). “A recent report by the County of Santa Clara found the number of overdose deaths involving fentanyl more than doubled from April to May,” said Sherri Terao, Director for Behavioral Health Services Department. “We are encouraging everyone, especially people under 30 years old, to learn more about fentanyl and its impacts,” she added.

Earlier this year, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors approved a proposal to supply and maintain Narcan at county libraries in the event of an emergency. County Librarian Jennifer Weeks has spoken with other library systems that already carry Narcan to learn best practices. Earlier this year, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors approved a proposal to supply and maintain Narcan at county libraries in the event of an emergency. County Librarian Jennifer Weeks has spoken with other library systems that already carry Narcan to learn best practices.

This includes public education and voluntary staff training. “Members of our staff have volunteered to learn how to safely administer Narcan in case of an emergency, and our libraries have a limited stock on-hand should the need arise,” Weeks said. “Many school districts keep Narcan on-hand with trained staff available to administer it. Other libraries in the country have Narcan at the ready. There is a great urgency to make this lifesaving medicine and public education available and we are here to help.”

The public is invited to attend one of these free Opioid Overdose Prevention workshops. Space is limited and registration is required. Participants who complete the training will be given a free Narcan kit, while supplies last.

 

Opioid Overdose Prevention Workshops: Milpitas Library: Saturday, July 8 at 2 p.m.; Cupertino Library: Wednesday, July 12 at 1 p.m.; Los Altos Library: Saturday, August 5 at 1:30 p.m.; Morgan Hill Library: Tuesday, August 8 at 6 p.m.; Gilroy Library: Wednesday, August 16 at 7 p.m.; Campbell Express Library: Thursday, August 17 at 7 p.m.; and Saratoga Library: Saturday, September 9 at 1 p.m.