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San Diego County Sheriff expands Naloxone distribution to combat opioid overdoses

The San Diego County Sheriff's Department is launching a new effort to get a life-saving medication out to places where opioid overdoses are likely to happen. KPBS reporter Jacob Aere has the story.

Naloxone, commonly known as Narcan, is a medication that quickly reverses the effects of an overdose from pain relievers and opioids such as heroin, methadone, fentanyl and morphine. A new program aims to get the treatment distributed to more people and places in San Diego County.

“We’ve seen too many parents who are not even aware that their child is using drugs, wake up to find their teenager has died. We see instances where people who use drugs in a group and ... overdose,” San Diego County Sheriff Kelly Martinez said at a Monday news conference to announce the plan. “These are all cases where Naloxone could have made a difference.”

Jacob Aere
/
KPBS
San Diego County Sheriff Kelly Martinez speaks at a press conference about Naloxone distribution, Jan, 23, 2023.
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The sheriff's department is partnering with other agencies to make Narcan more accessible where overdoses might occur.

Their goal is to distribute over 30,000 naloxone kits per year across the county, according to the region’s health department.

“We're gonna partner with restaurants and bars, we will partner with anybody — with schools, everyone else too,” said County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher.

Nathan Smiddy thinks the expanded effort is a great idea.

He works for A New PATH — a nonprofit focused on drug addiction and treatment.

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Carlos Castillo
/
KPBS
A table with Narcan Nasal spray is organized at a press conference, Jan. 23, 2023.

Smiddy is also known as "Narcan Nate," because he’s been handing out the medication to high-risk homeless individuals for years, and teaching people how to use it.

Smiddy said it's not just the homeless population who need Narcan, and he hopes the sheriff’s new effort reduces the stigma around the nasal spray.

“Some people like to think that Naloxone is enabling people that use drugs. And that's just not the case. People can't get better if they're dead. They can't work on themselves, they can't seek mental health services, they can't seek treatment,” Smiddy told KPBS.

Carlos Castillo
/
KPBS
A table full of Narcan Nasal spray and informational packets on opioids is organized at a press conference, Jan. 23, 2023.

Smiddy said said the education component of the new distribution program is key as it will teach people how to properly use the Narcan nasal spray, and save lives.