The San Diego County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a proposal to require fentanyl awareness education in the county’s classrooms as well as distribute naloxone to parents and students and train them on how to use the medication.
The proposal, sponsored by Supervisors Jim Desmond and Terra Lawson-Remer and District Attorney Summer Stephan, also seeks funding to support on-campus drug and alcohol awareness programs.
Accidental death caused by fentanyl is the leading killer of people between the ages of 18 and 45, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, far exceeding the number of deaths caused by car accidents, COVID-19, heart disease and gun violence within that age group.
“Fentanyl is a poison, and we need to start treating it like a weapon. One pill can kill,” Desmond said. “It’s time we confront the realities of fentanyl in our communities. It’s killing our youth and causing extreme harm to our county. We must address this head-on, by talking to our kids and understanding the risks of illicit fentanyl.”
On June 28, the supervisors directed the county’s chief administrative officer to work with the Health and Human Services Agency to “develop recommendations and implementation plans to declare illicit fentanyl as a public health crisis,” a statement from the supervisors reads.
“We cannot stand by as young people across our county die tragic deaths from fentanyl,” Lawson-Remer said. “With this vote, the county is advancing best practices in harm reduction and redoubling our commitment to keeping San Diegans safe from dangerous drug overdoses.”
CDC data released earlier this year found overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids such as fentanyl increased from an estimated 57,834 in 2020 to 71,238 in 2021. Fentanyl is 100 times more potent than morphine, officials said.
“Today’s board action can be transformational in saving the lives of our children and youth from the deadly threat of illegal fentanyl,” Stephan said. “Unfortunately, key mandates and funding for drug prevention were removed in our state in 2009. Today brings renewed hope that we can empower our students and parents with knowledge to prevent fentanyl overdoses, which killed 12 children in San Diego County last year.”
In 2009, the state’s Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities — part of President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act — was eliminated and the mandate for school districts to use prevention curriculum was removed and defunded.
“Too many families have lost loved ones that could have been saved if they were armed with the necessary information to make the right choices or the single tool needed to reverse one costly mistake,” San Diego County Superintendent of Schools Paul Gothold said. “Even one death is too many, which is why all of us at the San Diego County Office of Education and the San Diego County Board of Education are committed to addressing this epidemic.”
City News Service contributed to this article.