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By Sarah SweeneyCounty of San Diego Communications Office

September 21, 2019 (San Diego) - In the midst of record-setting prescription drug deaths, the County of San Diego has received welcome news in the form of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) grant to strengthen efforts in the local fight against opioids.

The $6.5 million grant, over three years, is part of a $1.8 billion national push by the federal Department of Health and Human Services to combat opioid addiction and deaths. The County of San Diego was one of 16 cities or counties to be awarded grants from this effort.

“The shape of the opioid epidemic is evolving and so must our approach in preventing the deadly and addictive impact of opioids in the county,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, County public health officer. “This funding will help us take critical steps needed to help reverse the course of the growing opioid crisis.”

Set to be officially accepted by the Board of Supervisors on September 24, the funds will be used to help prevent overdoses, develop systems that support coordinated and timely detections of potentially harmful events, provide training to providers, assist individuals in accessing drug treatment and recovery care, and provide guidance on education and training activities and in the use of electronic health records.

“Access to treatment with addiction medications is integral to our efforts to reduce the harmful impacts of opioid misuse” said Dr. Luke Bergmann, director of County Behavioral Health Services. “This grant is good news for both the County’s prevention and treatment efforts.”

Opioid overdose deaths in San Diego County have increased steadily over the last decade. San Diego County’s opioid crisis had mainly involved prescription opioids, but synthetic opioids such as fentanyl are now a deadly trend, with an 82 percent increase in deaths involving fentanyl.

In the County, fentanyl-related deaths now surpass heroin-related deaths. Moreover, the economic impact in the form of lost productivity and increased health care and criminal justice costs due to opioids was significant and estimated at $950 million in 2016.

“We know that opioid addiction can happen to anyone and it can happen very quickly,” said County Supervisor Kristin Gaspar. “With countless numbers of prescription pills sitting in medicine cabinets across the county, we must continue to talk to our families and friends and educate the community on safe use, safe storage and safe disposal of these highly addictive medications. Overdose deaths are preventable, and it starts by having these conversations.”

Preventing drug abuse and getting people into treatment is essential to the County’s Live Well San Diego vision, which aims to improve the health and safety of all residents. The County funds prevention and treatment services throughout the region. If you, or someone you care about, needs treatment, please call the Access and Crisis Line at (888) 724-7240.

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