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San Diego hit by large jump in overdose deaths

Fentanyl pills pictured from a seizure in San Diego, Sept. 14, 2018.
Office of the United States Attorney
Fentanyl pills pictured from a seizure in San Diego, Sept. 14, 2018.

Overdose deaths in the U.S. reached a grim new record in 2021, according to new figures released this week from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. More than 107,000 people died from accidental overdoses in the country in 2021, an increasing majority of them opioid-related.

The year-to-year increase in overdose deaths from 2020 to 2021 nationally was 15%. Overdose deaths increased in San Diego County over that time by 16%.

"We're seeing increases locally that actually — by a small margin — are greater than the percentage increases that the CDC recently reportedly across the country," said Luke Bergmann, director of San Diego County's Behavioral Health Services department.


To combat the growing problem Bergmann said the county is prioritizing a variety of harm-reduction solutions that emphasize drug treatment and access to temporary housing. The approach has similarities to what the Biden administration announced recently in its national drug control strategy.

In order to reduce the number of overdose deaths in San Diego County, Bergmann is looking to increase access to overdose-fighting medicine naloxone, better known by its brand name Narcan.

"We need to make naloxone as available and as easy to access (like) condoms have been for a long time," he said.

Bergmann joined Midday Edition on Friday.