SLO County approves free naloxone to curb opioid overdose deaths
Drug overdoses involving opioid narcotics are on a steep rise nationwide and Central Coast communities are seeing the same.
President Trump vowed to get tough on drugs, declaring the opioid crisis a "national emergency" on Thursday.
"Nobody is safe from this epidemic that threatens young and old, rich and poor, urban and rural communities. Everyone is threatened," said President Trump.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioid overdoses claimed 33,000 lives in 2015.
"It is more prevalent in rural areas, and we are somewhat of a rural county, and we are seeing the numbers go sky high," said Dr. Penny Borenstein, health officer for San Luis Obispo County Public Health.
Dr. Borenstein says opioid-related deaths more than tripled between 2006 and 2015.
"Our most recent number of fatalities from last year is at 37. That continues to go up year upon year," Dr. Borenstein said.
Health officials are especially concerned since the county is starting to see a powerful synthetic opioid causing overdoses.
"We are beginning to see fentanyl in our county laced with our heroin supply and fentanyl in very small amounts can be deadly very quickly," Dr. Borenstein said.
San Luis Obispo County Public Health announced a local strategy this week, providing a free antidote to family, friends, and even the addicts themselves. The idea is to have the naloxone at hand before an overdose occurs.
"As good as our emergency response system is, the quicker you can reverse the effects of opioids, the more likely it is to succeed," said Dr. Borenstein.
She's aware of the criticism about the program and the belief that addicts may continue to use if they have naloxone easily accessible.
"I think it is just another tool in our toolbox to try to prevent death prematurely from those who are addicted."
The county is focusing on prevention and rehab treatments and hopes President Trump's war on drugs also comes in the form of local funding.
The county will be getting more than 600 nasal sprays of the antidote. This is being funded by a nearly $30,000 grant from the state health department.
SLO Bangers Syringe Exchange will provide naloxone without a prescription at no cost and in a confidential setting. Call (805) 458-0123 to learn more or stop by Wednesdays from 5:30 to 7:30 at 2191 Johnson Ave.