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Today the San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to support Supervisors Nathan Fletcher and Joel Anderson’s plan to use an expected $100 million in settlement money from lawsuits with drug makers to address the opioid crisis in the region. After today’s vote, Supervisors Fletcher and Anderson issued the following statements:

‘We have taken a very important step today in our fight against the opioid epidemic,” said Supervisor Fletcher. “By passing this opioid settlement framework, our County is now ready to take action quickly to combat this crisis by investing millions of dollars in best-practices to help San Diegans overcome addiction and save lives.”     

“We all know someone who has been impacted by opioid addiction, whether it be a family member, friend, or neighbor. Today, my Board colleagues and I voted to take a proactive and measured approach to addressing this crisis. There is no time to wait to save lives, and now, we won’t have to,” shared Supervisor Anderson.

Supervisors Fletcher and Anderson proactively engaged with the medical community, hospitals, first responders, social justice and equity advocates and drug treatment specialists to gather input. More than 200 people provided input that created the Opioid Settlement Framework that includes expanding access to Medically Assisted Treatment (MAT), putting “Wellness Advocates” in hospitals, providing wrap-around services and housing, drug disposal strategies and public information campaigns.

The Framework is structured to provide guidance on a two-phased implementation strategy. Certain programs should be implemented immediately as funds become available and other programs will require additional structures be put in place before they can be successfully implemented. 

Additionally, there is flexibility built into the Framework in the event there are updated guidelines on the use of these funds. Examples of the programs the Framework recommends funding include:

Healthcare Integration

  • Harm Reduction & Prevention
  • Social Supports & Services  

To read the entire policy, click here

In 2021, more than 900 San Diegans died from opioid related accidental overdoses, a 54 percent increase from the previous year.  In 2021, San Diego County recorded over 800 fentanyl-related overdose deaths. This marks over a 400 percent increase in two years, from 151 recorded deaths in 2019. 

In March during his State of the County Address, Chair Fletcher introduced the idea of developing the plan, and then in May together with Supervisor Anderson they launched a months-long process to develop the Framework.   

In early 2021, Chair Fletcher received support from a majority of his colleagues, to give the Behavioral Health Services team more authority to implement industry best practices to help San Diegans manage their addiction to opioids and other debilitating substances. In May of 2021, County Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten signed a Naloxone Standing Order to allow: 1.) Community organizations to distribute without a prescription to any person at risk of an overdose or to a family member, friend, or other person able to assist; and 2.) The administration of naloxone to a person suspected of experiencing an overdose by a family member, friend or bystander. And in December Chair Fletcher and the San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted 5 to 0 to move forward several harm reduction drug treatment projects being undertaken by the County’s Public and Behavioral Health Services. 

Signs of an Overdose

To determine if someone you know has overdosed on opioids, fentanyl or other drugs, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says to look for these signs:

  • Small, constricted “pinpoint pupils”
  • Falling asleep or loss of consciousness
  • Slow, shallow breathing
  • Choking or gurgling sounds
  • Limp body
  • Pale, blue gray or cold skin

Get help for Addiction

The County has inpatient and outpatient treatment services available throughout the region that can help San Diegans with substance use disorders. People seeking help should call the San Diego County Access and Crisis Line 888-724-7240 or 2-1-1 San Diego. Both resources are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.