Opioid regulations to fund fentanyl testing, naloxone and more
San Diego County’s share of money from settlements paid by opioid manufacturers will help expand naloxone distribution, support overdose survivors and provide fentanyl drug test strips contaminated, officials said in an update Tuesday.
The county’s opioid settlement framework, approved in October, outlines how county officials will spend the $100 million they expect from seven ongoing lawsuits against drug companies. It focuses on integrating addiction treatment into medical care, adding social supports and services, and preventing and reducing the harms of opioid use.
Officials are developing a program to send trained peer advocates to hospitals to meet patients recovering from overdoses and get them started in treatment programs. Peer advocates will counsel patients in the emergency room and provide 90 days of follow-up support, including overdose education, access to naloxone and service referrals to treatment, according to the letter from the advice.
“Peers will help clients navigate to resources to reduce the risk of future overdose,” county population health officer Dr. Nicole Esposito said at the county supervisors’ meeting on Tuesday.
Officials will connect primary care providers with resources for behavioral health care, especially in rural areas, she said. This will include routine screenings, prevention, medication and referrals to behavioral health specialists, the council letter says. And county emergency medical service providers are developing a pilot program to train paramedics to deliver opioid withdrawal medication in the field.
The county is also expanding overdose prevention options, with six naloxone vending machines in place and six more planned for installation, said Liz Hernandez, director of public health services for the county. Additionally, the sheriff’s department distributed more than 800 naloxone kits, she said. The county will also provide clean syringes and fentanyl test strips to check for drug contamination, she said.
Health officials will also launch an “illicit fentanyl awareness campaign” aimed at children and teens via social media, streaming, games and audio, said Luke Bergmann, director of behavioral health services.
During public comments, speakers urged the council to invest in prevention as well as treatment for drug abuse and overdose.
Many people suffer from fentanyl poisoning by taking substances they believe to be other drugs, such as Zanax or Adderall, said speaker Ann Riddle.
“How can we show them better ways to reduce stress?” ” she asked. “Make sure the messaging starts early.”
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