San Luis Obispo County is not immune to the opioid crisis. Opioid overdoses can impact anyone, and one way to fight it is through education.
There were all sorts of mental health resources all under one roof at the free Support SLO Community Resource Fair in San Luis Obispo organized by Aspire Counseling Services.
The need is high and according to SLO County Behavioral Health, in the last 5 years, they have seen a 347% increase in opioid overdose deaths.
“I wanted to use his story to help save others and make sure that other families didn't have to struggle with the void of an overdose,” said Danielle Murillo, who lost her son to an overdose and founded the non-profit Let’s Make a Difference.
Jaycob Murillo was only 27 when he passed away from an opioid overdose in 2018.
“He came to me in a dream, my son came to visit, and he said, ‘use me to make a difference,’ so that's where the name came from,” explained Murillo.
This is one of the many organizations attending the Support SLO Community Resource Fair at Mission Prep in San Luis Obispo.
“People still stigmatize those that use substances, and still stigmatize people that struggle with mental health issues,” said Tom Buckley, the executive director of Aspire Counseling Services in San Luis Obispo. “San Luis Obispo is a wonderful, beautiful place to live, but it can be hard for people that struggle here because there's not a lot of accessible care, so getting everybody under one roof is really important to show them that we're all working together and there is treatment.”
Data collected in 2021 by SLO County Behavioral Health shows that in 2021, 10 people died every month from an overdose in San Luis Obispo County, and about 80% of those deaths involved fentanyl.
“Before we really had to focus on prescription opiates and heroin, but what's end up happening is now fentanyl, which is much more potent and much smaller doses, is being put into many different drugs, not just opiates,” said Dr. Gerard Iru Fernando, the medical director for Aspire Behavioral Health.
That same report from SLO County Behavioral Health states that 164 patients in 2021 also visited emergency rooms for opioid-related incidents in this county.
“A lot of people who are in their act of addiction have a lot of issues meeting the obligations for their work, for their family, and they may actually have signs that they are intoxicated, so if people are intoxicated with opioids, they might be having constricted pupils, a little bit more tired and a little bit more relaxed,” explained Dr. Fernando when asked about symptoms related to opioid use.
SLO County Behavioral Health said that between January 1, 2022 and Sept. 30, 2022, 38 lives were saved every month thanks to the community use of naloxone.
“Narcan is a really great way to reverse an overdose, so this is an absolutely lifesaving treatment,” added Dr. Fernando.
Saturday’s event included a Narcan distribution and training.
“If you have this device, you can shoot it into the nostril of a person who has overdosed and a person who looks overdose is not responding to stimuli, is not breathing,” said Dr. Fernando. “What it does is it goes and it kicks off those opiates off the opiate receptor and allowing people to breathe again, and for those opiates to stop acting on the systems.”
NAMI, Cuesta College, Cal Poly, SLO Co Recovery, CAPSLO and Hospice SLO County were also among those in attendance.
The focus was not just dealing with addiction but mental health conditions showcasing success stories like Penelope Valdes’ who was part of Aspire Counseling Services’ teen program.
“You’re not alone, you’re going to get through it,” said Valdes, who is now an alumni client.
She has plans to give back to other teens.
“I want to be like a therapist, help teens… I think just because I have a lot of experience as like going through stuff as a teen, I want to help others,” added Valdes.
Aspire Counseling Services offers free weekly family support groups on Tuesdays. For more information on other services, click here.
Let’s Make a Difference offers education and scholarships. To learn more, you can reach the organization via email at email@example.com
If you would like to access a free naloxone or Narcan kit, you can visit the SLO Opioid safety Coalition’s website: click here.