The San Diego County Board of Supervisors expanded its fight on opioid abuse as it evolves in the region by announcing a plan with more data surveillance and community outreach.
With a recent decrease in access to prescription opioids, users tend to turn to cheaper alternatives like heroin and fentanyl, where overdoses of these drugs have increased in San Diego, according to Interim County Deputy Public Health Officer Dean Sidelinger, M.D., M.S.Ed.
On Tuesday, the board unveiled a plan to address this changing use of opioids in the county.
“The shape of the epidemic is changing, and the impact continues to be staggering on our community,” said Sidelinger.
From 2007 to 2017, overdose deaths in San Diego County reached 2,200 from prescribed opioids and 890 from heroin. In 2017 alone, 87 people died from fentanyl in the region, according to the county.
“Each of these deaths was preventable,” Sidelinger said.
The San Diego County Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force was created in 2008 to address the region’s prescription drug epidemic, and with the board’s new plan, it will now have “enhanced data surveillance” and “community outreach and engagement, education, resource development, promotion of alternative pain management and appropriate medical disposal,” according to the county.
The county said the new data will help more easily provide specific resources, like overdose counters such as Naloxone, across the region to reduce the risk of overdose deaths.
“Surveillance data will be developed for real-time interventions to ‘hot spot’ specific resource allocation and prevention activities,” said Assistant Clinical Director for County Behavioral Health Services Nicole Esposito, M.D.
Esposito said Tuesday’s updated plan will also include “safe prescription of opioids, access to evidence-based treatment and reducing harms to prevent overdose deaths.”
“Opioid stewardship in health care ensures that clinicians in our communities are adhering to current and informed prescribing practices for pain management,” said Esposito. “This includes clinicians using non-opioid pain management strategies as a first course of action.”
In general, one out of every eight San Diegan struggles with substance abuse, according to the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency. Of those people, 90 percent do not access treatment for their addiction. The county said its new plan of community outreach will hopefully change that.
If you or someone you know is experiencing a substance abuse problem, call the county’s Access and Crisis Line at (888) 724-7240.