Overdose Reversal Meds Soon to be Available at County Clinics for Anyone
The County of San Diego will soon make naloxone, an overdose reversal medication, widely available at several community-based locations and clinics throughout the county. Today Chair Nathan Fletcher, together with County public health leaders announced plans to increase community distribution, which is in line with a more progressive harm reduction strategy that will be introduced during the June 8, 2021 Board of Supervisors meeting.
“We are stepping up our commitment to comprehensive harm reduction strategies,” said Chair Fletcher, “Making this life-saving medication more accessible, helps to prevent overdose deaths and put San Diegans struggling with addiction on a better path to recovery.”
In 2020, San Diego County recorded 457 fentanyl-related overdose deaths. This marks a 202% increase in one year, from 151 recorded deaths in 2019.
The County in the past has made naloxone available to first responders, but in some situations a more expedient administration of naloxone is required to save a life. Overdoses from opioids can take hours to cause death, but other drugs such as fentanyl can cause death in a matter of minutes.
Dr. Wilma Wooten, the County of San Diego’s Public Health Officer, today signed a Naloxone Standing Order to allow:
- 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
- The administration of naloxone to a person suspected of experiencing an overdose by a family member, friend or bystander.
“Opioids in large doses can cause breathing problems and a loss of responsiveness that can lead to death,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten M.D., M.P.H. “Naloxone saves lives by temporarily reversing those life-threatening effects until emergency medical help arrives.”
The County has filed an application to receive a free supply of naloxone from the State Department of Health Care Services via its Naloxone Distribution Project. It is expected the first shipment could be delivered in June and it will be distributed to clients and patients through County clinics.
Chair Nathan Fletcher earlier this year introduced and passed a harm reduction policy, with the support of the Board of Supervisors, to strengthen the County of San Diego’s focus on assisting people address addiction with existing best practices.
Luke Bergman, Ph.D., Director of Behavioral Health Services for the County of San Diego, has been leading the development of the County’s new harm reduction strategy. During the June 8, 2021 Board of Supervisors meeting he will present the comprehensive plan.
“The evidence is clear that harm reduction approaches lead to overwhelmingly positive outcomes, including reductions in overdose deaths and the spread of Hepatitis C and HIV, and greater engagement with treatment. The broad expansion of naloxone distribution is a critical component of the comprehensive County Substance Use and Harm Reduction Strategy with the potential to have an immediate impact on the rise in overdose deaths throughout the region.”
After the Naloxone Standing Order was signed, AMR Paramedic Susan Monroe was on hand for a demonstration for how to administer naloxone. But earlier, Jess Flandreau, Partner and Founding Member of San Diego Harm Reduction Coalition, shared what it was like for her to successfully administer naloxone to a person experiencing an overdose.
Community distribution of naloxone aligns with Chair Fletcher’s Framework for the Future of San Diego County. The Framework prioritizes communities and populations in San Diego County that have been historically left behind. Through this Framework, Chair Fletcher is fighting for: racial justice, health equity, economic opportunity, environmental protection, government transparency, and fundamental changes to county operations.
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 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.