‘No time to wait’: Governors approve $100 million plan to fight opioid crisis

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opioids
Fentanyl pills packed in candy boxes were seized at the Los Angeles airport. Photo via @MikeSington Twitter

San Diego County supervisors Tuesday unanimously approved frame pending $100 million from pharmaceutical companies to address the region’s opioid crisis.

According to proposals from leaders Joel Anderson and Nathan Fletcher, strategies include increasing access to drug treatment, placing wellness advocates in hospitals, providing comprehensive services and housing, disposing of medicines, including bags, and public awareness campaigns.

Some programs will be implemented as soon as money becomes available, while others will require additional structures to be put in place before they can be successfully implemented, according to the county.

Fletcher, chairman of the board of directors, described the structure as comprehensive and sufficiently flexible.

While prescription narcotic pills like oxycodone are the catalyst for the county’s new policy, abuse of the synthetic opioid fentanyl has exacerbated the crisis and accelerated the damage, Fletcher said.

In a joint statement after the vote, Fletcher said the county is “now poised to take swift action to address this crisis by investing millions of dollars in best practices to help San Diegans overcome addiction and save lives.”

Anderson said, “We all know someone who has been affected by opioid addiction, whether it’s a family member, friend or neighbor. Today, my board colleagues and I voted for a proactive and balanced approach to solving this crisis. There is no time to wait to save a life, and now we won’t have to.”

Supervisor Tera Lawson-Remer said it’s important for the county to get its share of damages from drug companies and hold them accountable.

“The opioid manufacturers knew they were doing wrong, but they were doing it to make money, and they were doing it at the cost of human life,” Lawson-Remmer said.

More than 900 San Diego residents died of accidental opioid overdoses in 2021, a 54% increase from the previous year, according to the county. More than 800 fentanyl overdose deaths were reported in San Diego County in 2021, a 400% increase from 151 deaths in 2019.

During the public comment period, San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan said the framework is “a much-needed framework for our region in transforming the health and well-being of our community.”

Stephan noted that more than 100,000 people died of overdoses in the United States last year, with 70,000 of those deaths from fentanyl.

Lisa Nava, a North County resident whose son overdosed on fentanyl in April 2019, urged the council to act.

“I stand before you today as a broken man … to honor my son,” said Nava, who added that it’s important that those living with addiction have a voice on such a pressing issue.

Another woman who said her sister died from fentanyl said families need help and education. “It may be too late for my sister, but it is not too late for many who are suffering,” she added.

The woman, who identified herself as Oliver Twist, suggested the county have a “fentanyl dashboard” so residents can know how many residents are dying from the drug.

Twist said that sending out drug disposal bags to everyone is not good because it is like “sending condoms to a monastery”.

The City News Service prepared this article.


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