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Drug overdose-reversal medication now free in response to San Diego's rising fentanyl deaths

Posted at 5:49 PM, May 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-21 20:50:56-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV)— In response to the growing number of drug overdose deaths in San Diego County, a new health officer order will allow an overdose reversal medication to be readily available to the public.

Dr. Wilma Wooten, San Diego County’s public health officer, signed the Naloxone Standing Order Friday, allowing Naloxone, also known as Narcan, to be given for free and without a prescription.

“This standing order will allow community organizations to distribute without a prescription to anyone at risk for an overdose or to a family member, friend, or other person able to assist,” Wooten explained during a press conference Friday.

The nasal spray has been a life-saving tool to reverse opioid overdoses. The new order also allows anyone, like a family member, friend, or bystander, to administer naloxone to someone who appears to be experiencing an overdose. It will be available to the general public at community-based locations and clinics in the county.

“When given right away, Naloxone can work in minutes,” said Wooten. “Naloxone can quickly restore normal breathing in someone whose breathing has slowed or stopped because of an overdose.”

The order goes into effect immediately. The county applied to get a free supply of naloxone from the State Department of Health Care Services.

The first shipment is expected to arrive in June, then be distributed to county clinics and community organizations.

In 2019, San Diego County recorded 151 fentanyl-related overdose deaths. In 2020, there was an approximately 200 percent increase with 457 fentanyl-related overdose deaths.

According to the DEA, the synthetic opioid is 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine and often mixed into other drugs.

Just this week, San Diego County sheriff’s deputies and medical staff at the George Bailey Detention Facility in Otay Mesa used naloxone to save eight inmates from overdosing on fentanyl.

“I would say there are very few individuals in San Diego County who have not have their lives touch in some way from substance abuse; a friend, a family member, a fellow veteran,” said County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher.

This year, with the support of the Board of Supervisors, Fletcher introduced and passed a harm reduction policy that aims to strengthen the county’s focus on helping people struggling with addiction with “existing best practices.” During the Board of Supervisors meeting on June 8, Luke Bergmann, the Director of Behavioral Health Services for San Diego County, will present the plan. Bergman has been involved in developing the new harm reduction strategy.