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Partnership addresses opioid addiction

 October 12, 2023 at 5:00 AM PDT

Good Morning, I’m Debbie Cruz….it’s Thursday, October 12th.


How a local partnership is trying to help solve opioid addiction. More on that next. But first... let’s do the headlines….


Essential city workers from Escondido demonstrated outside of City Hall yesterday.

Their union contract expired in June.

They're frustrated the city denied their proposed cost of living increase and declined to use federal covid relief funds to pay essential workers.

Alex Cruz is a street maintenance technician.

"We all have our position but a lot of us, the majority of us were the backbone.. We're a part of the pie.”  

This comes as the city of Escondido faces a 10-million-dollar budget deficit over the next five years.


County health officials say people have been exposed to tuberculosis on some M-T-S trolley lines and buses.

The dates of potential T-B exposure to riders were between February 16th and August 15th.

Health officials say a large number of people may have been exposed, but the likelihood that any particular rider was exposed for a long amount of time is low.

The San Diego County News Center website has details on which trolley lines and bus routes were impacted and when.


The San Diego Unified School District and the Boys and Girls Club of San Diego will soon offer after school programs to 19 elementary and middle schools in the district.

According to reporting by our media partner 10 News, the programs could start in some schools as early as next month.

San Diego Unified’s Tobie Pace explains what the programs will offer.

“The boys and girls club will be able to provide them snacks and activities and choice that we also have a built in power hour where they can get their homework done and tutoring.” 

The district will send out interest forms to families.


From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now. Stay with me for more of the local news you need.


There’s a new partnership aimed at helping opioid addicts in San Diego get help.

The social work department at SD-SU is teaming up with the San Diego Public Library to give addicts access to another drug that can reduce their cravings.

Sci-tech reporter Thomas Fudge tells us about bu-pre-norphine, and how it can make a difference.

The 9th floor of San Diego’s central library has a view of the bay and the trolleys that ply the streets below. It’s also an outdoor patio where I met David Houle, who is currently homeless. A native of Phoenix, he says he’s battled with addiction for more than 20 years. “I’ve had my dry spells. I’ve had my good spells. And coming here, it just went really bad.” Then he saw a flier at the Central Library, telling him about a program aimed at helping people addicted to opioids, with a drug called suboxone. Its primary ingredient is buprenorphine. Houle says he responded and signed up for suboxone treatment at Father Joe’s Village. After talking with the doctors at Father Joes, and taking it every day, getting to the right dose, it has really helped me a whole lot. I’ve had some slip-ups but it’s never got out of control. I take my strips every morning like I’d drink a cup of coffee. He says it’s as if the drug has mentally blocked the cravings he used to feel. He gets the medication on a small strip he places under his tongue. Buprenorphine itself is actually an opioid that binds to a person’s opiate receptor and can knock more dangerous and potent drugs off of it. Dr. Daniel Lasoff is an emergency physician and Toxicologist with UC San Diego health, who has prescribed buprenorphine many times. So it’s great. We can see things like pain relief. Treatment of withdrawal. Treatment of cravings. But we don’t see so much of that euphoria that we would see that drives people to start abusing these drugs.” Megan Partch is the chief health officer at Father Joe’s Villages, which is just 2 blocks away from the downtown library. We’ve seen people stabilize. We’ve seen people reconnect with family. We’ve seen them obtain income.  Housing. We’ve seen people find and obtain jobs that were unable to prior. Partch says she has seen the problems of drug use and overdoses grow exponentially in the homeless community. Due largely to the widespread use of fentanyl. Father Joe’s is the third leg of the partnership that also involves San Diego State and the San Diego Public Library. SDSU social work professor Lianne Urada said she has spoken to librarians who talked about frequent drug overdoses in the bathrooms and outside their libraries. Urada got a two-year grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to see if intervening with Buprenorphine could make a difference. Two months ago they began reaching out to addicts who used the Central Library. So many people do want to get help and sometimes just a little bit of help. Like us just finding them the next day, can make a world of difference to them and they tell us that. Just knowing somebody cares. The old library mission of public service, by promoting literacy and providing information, has evolved. The library has also become a place where homeless people go to use the bathrooms, charge their phones, be dry and safe. San Diego Central Librarian Jennifer Jenkins says libraries confront a changing urban environment and changing responsibilities. Libraries have become dynamic and reflexive and respond to the needs of the community in real time, as opposed to holding those traditional values and mission and not expanding and growing with our communities. The San Diego State project seeks to recruit at least 40 addicts to get Suboxone prescriptions and take it regularly. Urada says she hopes this will be a model for the rest of the library system and perhaps libraries in other states. But Lasoff says we also need to remember that detoxification, by using medicines like Suboxone, is rarely enough to make a problem go away. Substance use disorders are chronic diseases. It’s the same way with asthma, diabetes or hypertension. These are health problems that wax and wane and people have relapses. He says long-term treatment needs to be part of the solution to turn people away from drug abuse. SOQ.


Efforts are also underway to help improve the mental health of students in a North County school district.

North County reporter Tania Thorne tells us about a new program being launched at San Marcos Unified’s campuses.

Let's face it together. That is the name of the mental health program all of San Marcos students will have access to. Students can access help by texting a number that will respond with confidential resources. There is also a wellness team that addresses more severe cases and goes on to address mental health needs in the students home. Christi Frias is the director of student services for the district. We have saved lives. And we can say that confidently. And it's almost on a weekly basis where we are having students coming forward that maybe previously wouldn't have had  the support and now they're getting it. A $2 million dollar grant from the city of San Marcos helped roll out the two year program. But Frias says it's something they plan on keeping and funding because the investment is saving students lives. TT KPBS News.


In other health related news… the Human Milk Institute was founded a year ago at UC-SD, with the goal of fully understanding breast milk and what it means to human health.

Sci-tech reporter Thomas Fudge spoke to their new director.

UCSD is home to the only academic institute dedicated to understanding the science of mother’s milk and how breastfeeding can be encouraged. Breastfeeding makes children less vulnerable to infections and makes mothers less likely to get breast cancer. But it's not clear how the protective elements in breast milk work. Mitra Hooshmand was just hired as their executive director. There isn’t enough research to distinguish between kids who are breastfed and those given formula and I would love to be a part of the research that answers some of these questions. Hooshmand is known for her work, raising billions of dollars for stem cell research by campaigning for Proposition 14. SOQ.


Coming up.... Why the District 4 supervisor race matters. We’ll have that story and more, just after the break.


Mail ballots will be arriving this week for the special election to fill the District 4 seat on the county Board of Supervisors.

Metro reporter Andrew Bowen explains what's at stake.

District 4 covers parts of central San Diego as well as La Mesa, Lemon Grove and Spring Valley. County supervisors can sometimes be less well known compared to mayors or city councilmembers. But their job is no less important. Supervisors administer the county's budget, which is more than 8 billion dollars and includes programs like food stamps, MediCal and the public health department. The supervisors are also the local government for the county's unincorporated areas. These are the communities outside of city limits. County supervisors decide things like which county roads need repaving and where to plan for future growth. Three years ago, Democrats gained a majority on the board of supervisors for the first time in a generation. They've passed progressive reforms on topics ranging from cannabis to climate change. Then former supervisor Nathan Fletcher was accused of sexual harassment. He resigned and the board is now split 2-2. The election on November 7th is a runoff between San Diego City Councilmember Monica Montgomery Steppe and private investigator Amy Reichert. Reichert is a Republican and Montgomery Steppe is a Democrat, but you won't see their party affiliation on the ballot because the office is officially nonpartisan. You can learn more about the candidates and how to vote by going to Andrew Bowen, KPBS news.


The San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance is joining a world-wide effort to preserve species diversity.

Environment reporter Erik Anderson says the institution is focusing energy on storing genetic material from critical species.

Marlys Houck is the curator of the frozen zoo. “….so each of these boxes holds 100 vials. And I’ll just pull out one box.” The super cooled stainless steel tanks preserve cells from more than 10-thousand animals. The San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance’s Paul Baribault says the repository is part of a global effort to coordinate conservation. “We talk a lot about conservation at its heart, starting with people.  And it has to start with people so that it can grow.  Build alliances.  Build partnerships around the globe so we can achieve more together.” The zoo’s frozen collection is the largest and most diverse of its kind. Erik Anderson KPBS News.


That’s it for the podcast today. As always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. Join us again tomorrow for the day’s top stories, plus, we’ll tell you about some arts events happening this weekend. I’m Debbie Cruz. Thanks for listening and have a great Thursday.

The social work department at San Diego State University is teaming up with the San Diego Public Library to give opioid addicts access to another drug that can reduce their cravings. In other news, San Marcos Unified School District is launching a new approach to addressing the mental health needs of their students. Plus, mail ballots will be arriving this week for the special election to fill the District 4 seat on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, we have details on what's at stake.