Local Support Groups Raise Awareness on Narcan as Opioid Overdose Numbers Rise

Cherish Burtson is two and a half years sober-- she founded her own support group and is working to help save the lives of people struggling with substance abuse

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According to county data, an average of three people die from a drug overdose every day in San Diego.

“Not everyone can just stop doing drugs,” said Cherish Burtson, SD Harm Reduction founder. “It’s not that simple.”

Burtson knows it first hand.

“When I was in my early 20’s, I was introduced to heroin by some friends,” said Burtson. “I was kind of going through a bad period with my mental health at that time and just gradually over time I got hooked on it.”

Today, Burtson is two and a half years sober. She’s founded her own support group and is working to help save the lives of people struggling with substance abuse. 

“If we can support each other and if people who use drugs can support each other more then that can make a big difference,” said Burtson.

In partnership with A New Path, another local support group, Burtson hosted a free community training on Narcan. Around 50 people showed up at the training.

“We want Narcan to be in everyone's medicine cabinet,” said April Ella, director of operations for naloxone distribution at A New Path. “It should be like fire extinguishers. It’s absolutely necessary for people to learn how to use Narcan and to learn how to recognize and respond to an overdose.”

Since 2012, Ella and her team at a new path have trained over 8,000 people and have recorded 1,982 overdose reversals. 

“Whether it's someone you do know or someone you find on the street if you are able to save a life that person will be able to reach recovery,” said Ella. “You can't reach recovery if someone is dead.”

The opioid crisis was an issue before but during the pandemic, it has spiked significantly especially with the rise in prevalence of the drug fentanyl. According to county data fentanyl-related deaths rose more than 200% in 2020 and we are on track to nearly double that amount this year. 

For support groups like A New Path and SD Harm Reduction now it is more important than ever to train on and provide a Narcan kit to every San Diego resident. 

If you are interested in scheduling a free training on Narcan call 619 670-1184  or email anewpath.org.

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