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Project Opioid aims to lessen the impact of the opioid crisis in Santa Barbara County

Opioid Prescribing Guidelines
Posted at 6:07 PM, May 18, 2022

Between November 2020 and November 2021, 106,000 fatal overdoses occurred in the U.S., averaging 293 deaths a day, according to a report released by Project Opioid. That report shows fentanyl is to blame for many of these deaths.

Community leaders gathered at the Santa Ynez Marriot on Wednesday to announce the launch of Project Opioid. The project is the latest effort to tackle the opioid crisis in Santa Barbara County. The goal is to bring community leaders from different specialties together to tackle the problem and develop solutions.

Wednesday’s event in Santa Ynez featured the release of a report that outlines the threat opioids pose in California.

"People start to use drugs because of some issue or problem that they are having, and drugs can be very effective for solving that problem or issue," said Cherylynn Lee, Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office Psychologist.

Opiates are a popular solution for those suffering from chronic pain – and how one psychologist says many individuals begin using them.

"What happens over time is that people develop withdrawal and tolerance to that drug itself and then it becomes problematic," said Lee.

The involvement of leaders from across the county is what sets Project Opioid apart from previous efforts.

"There are things that community leaders in churches can do that public safety can't," said Lee.

Law enforcement says this project is vital to the safety of the community.

"We're losing brothers, sisters and children," said Kenny Kushner, Santa Barbara City Police Department Commander.

Community leaders are hoping to educate the public and prevent fatalities.

"The people that are dying from this oftentimes are through poisoning, so they don't even know that they're taking fentanyl," said Kushner.

Resources and education will also be more readily available county-wide.

"Our community will benefit, not only from learning all of the different treatments and services available but also in providing that support for those experiencing addiction," said Jenelle Osborne, City of Lompoc Mayor.

"It's important for us to continue doing this work where we set stigma aside, we set our judgments aside and we move forward with everything we have to ensure that one more life does not need to be lost to a preventable death," said Kristin Flickinger, Pacific Pride Foundation Executive Director.

Another key finding in the report shows of the 133 overdose deaths in Santa Barbara County between January 2020 and January 2021, 7.5% were solely caused by fentanyl.

The full report can be found here.