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Supervisors OK policies to combat fentanyl, opioid crisis

Drug Enforcement Administration
In August 2022, the Drug Enforcement Administration and law enforcement partners seized brightly colored rainbow fentanyl pills in 18 states.

County supervisors voted 4-0 Tuesday in favor of a set of policies and tools, including an education program, to combat the opioid/fentanyl crisis.

Supervisors voted after a presentation by the Behavioral Health Services department, which focused on several strategies to reduce overdoses and deaths.

Nick Macchione, Health and Human Services Agency director, said the opioid crisis has impacted many people in the San Diego region and that he was proud of the county's recommendations and initial plan.

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In late June, supervisors voted to declare fentanyl a public health emergency.

Along with formally receiving an update on the health emergency, supervisors approved funding for:

  • the Health and Human Services Agency/Behavioral Health Services to develop overdose prevention education and public health messaging;
  • the Public Safety Group, County Fire and Emergency Medical Services to develop a mapping program that shows the date, time and location of overdoses; and
  • HHSA Public Health Services and Behavioral Health Services to conduct overdose surveillance, investigation, response, evaluation and administration, and using $4.8 million of American Rescue Plan Act money for fiscal years 2022-23 and 2024-25 to pay for it.

The board also authorized the HHSA to apply for other funding to support overdose prevention and response.

According to information on the board meeting agenda, salary costs will come from an opioid lawsuit settlement or other funding sources, including grants.

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Supervisor Joel Anderson praised county staff for a proactive approach.

"I'm really excited to see this roll out, because it's going to have a tremendous impact on our communities," he added.

Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer said she hopes the plan can make a difference in San Diego and stem the tide of the fentanyl/opioid epidemic.

"When we see death rates rising so steeply, it's really a classic situation of where we're pulling people out of the river," Lawson-Remer said. She added the goal is to "fix the bridge, where people are falling into the water."

Supervisor Jim Desmond was absent from Tuesday's meeting.