SAN DIEGO — A unanimous vote Tuesday by the San Diego County supervisors approved a plan to address the ongoing fentanyl crisis.

According to the County of San Diego communications office, this includes expanding distribution of overdose medication, increasing education outreach and early intervention, working to detect “outbreaks” and monitoring rising overdoses.

Fentanyl deaths were declared a public health crisis by county supervisors and the county district attorney’s office back in June after data showed more that 740 people in San Diego County died from a fentanyl overdose in 2021. The communications office noted, that means 70% of all overdose deaths from that year were due to fentanyl.

The CDC has also chimed in on the matter, warning that accidental fentanyl overdoses are now the number one killer of people between the ages of 18 and 45. Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine, according to the communications office, which seemingly makes it very dangerous even in the smallest amount.

“I’m completely supportive of everything in (this action),” Board Chair Nathan Fletcher said. “The public health messaging, the Narcan (naloxone) distributions, the rapid response to overdose outbreaks.” 

A four-part strategy will now be set into motion to address the issue. Here’s a breakdown of each approach.

Conduct overdose prevention education

This strategy, the communications office explained, is meant to bolster a fentanyl awareness campaign that focuses on young people. It will include presentations and trainings on naloxone, a medication used to reverse overdoses, for parents and community groups. Social media, billboards, advertisements in six languages and a county information website will all be utilized, said officials.

Expand Naloxone Distribution

This strategy will launch a naloxone distribution campaign. In 2023, vending machines with the life-saving drug will be installed around the county, said the communications office. This will allow the community to help people experiencing an overdose faster. Naloxone kits will also be made available at local colleges.

Early intervention 

This strategy is directed at individuals and groups who are at a higher risk, including those who have experienced non-fatal overdoses or have been to an emergency room due to fentanyl, officials explained.

Improve detections of outbreaks of overdoses

This strategy will expand surveillance of overdoses and improve data collection that will help to detect cluster outbreaks, said the communications office. This will allow for faster responses to outbreaks with the hopes of preventing fatal overdoses.

Now that county supervisors have voted unanimously to move forward with this plan of action, created in collaboration with the San Diego Health and Human Services Agency, steps are in motion to address the fentanyl crisis plaguing the region.