Supervisors approve plan to combat drug abuse

SAN DIEGO — San Diego County supervisors¬† Tuesday unanimously approved an updated plan to combat prescription drug abuse.

Nick Macchione, county director of Health and Human Services, said the Prescription Drug Abuse Plan, first approved in 2010, has a new emphasis on public health and evidence-based services.

Nicole Esposito, an assistant clinical director of county Behavioral Services, told the board the updated plan will include community outreach, education, resource development and promotion of alternative pain management.

Supervisor Kristin Gaspar said the update allowed the board “to look ahead with a clear investment in our efforts.”

Supervisor Jim Desmond said that the county plan won’t eradicate the substance abuse problem, “but hopefully we can reduce the amount of deaths.”

Opioid overdoses and deaths are at epidemic levels in many areas of the United States. In San Diego County in 2017, there were 208 deaths due to prescription opioids and more than 7,000 emergency department visits where an opioid-related disorder was mentioned.

Dean Sidelinger, deputy county public health officer, said that over the last decade, opioid misuse has become more complex. As access to those prescription painkillers have been reduced, heroin and fentanyl overdoses increased.

“‘The shape of the epidemic is changing, and the impact continues to be staggering on our community,” Sidelinger said. “There are still too many deaths due to prescription opioids.”

Board Chairwoman Dianne Jacob said that 25 years ago, San Diego County was known as the “methamphetamine capital,” so county government established a strike force in response.

That approach worked and was recognized as a national model, Jacob said, adding she was pleased with all the work health officials put into updating the Prescription Drug Abuse Plan.

“It all comes down to the individual who’s struggling, and that’s what this plan will ultimately do for people,” Jacob said.

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