SAN DIEGO — San Diego’s mayor and California’s attorney general joined several state, local and federal leaders Wednesday to discuss how to continue to address the statewide fentanyl crisis.
Fentanyl is also impacting San Diego County, where the leaders first held a roundtable followed by a press conference at the San Diego Central Library.
The collaborative meeting brought all of the partners together to talk about how one part of government or organization cannot tackle the issue alone. The leaders stressed how everyone is needed to save lives against fentanyl.
“We are in a full-on state of emergency, full state of crisis,” said California Attorney General Rob Bonta.
“This is about real human beings, this is about our family members, our sobrinos,” said San Diego County Supervisor Chair Nora Vargas.
The combination of forces stands ready to tackle the state and county wide fentanyl epidemic. San Diego city, county, state and federal partners emphasized their commitment to deterring fentanyl.
Leaders said everyone needs to attack at every angle.
“That being said, we have to get into the schools. One of the problems I think we all face is trying to get parents into the seats,” said Shelly Howe, DEA Special Agent In Charge.
Also attacking fentanyl from the streets and inside the courts are areas the leaders addressed.
“To make sure that we save a life, a lifesaving mission, of trying to get to that dealer so the next child doesn’t get killed,” said San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan.
“These folks are dealing poison, they’re killing San Diegans, and they should be held accountable,” said San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria.
Gloria signed an executive order in November directing law enforcement to take action to address the fentanyl crisis. Gloria said the order has led to a 63% increase in fentanyl arrests in the city, but fentanyl related deaths remain high.
City officials say in 2022, more than 400 people died in San Diego, and more than 800 people across San Diego County.
Gloria said, “but of course we cannot continue to have hundreds of people die single every year because of fentanyl. We need to get those numbers down and we have to do it fast.”
Leaders spoke on how fentanyl impacts all backgrounds, not one group.
Sharp HealthCare CEO Chris Howard said fentanyl-related exposure has increased 90% over the last two years. While over the same period, Sharp saw a 30% increase in in-patient care related to the same cause.
Howard joined the other leaders in calling for tougher drug laws, more resources, treatment and prevention care.
Howard said doing so “would dramatically improve, patient outcomes so we can discharge patients to the right course of care, to the right arena.”
As part of Gloria’s executive order, the City is also prioritizing several initiatives funded by proceeds from a legal settlement with opioid manufacturers, including:
· 66 shelter beds with drug treatment services in partnership with the County of San Diego
· Laser-detection devices SDPD will use to test for fentanyl in the field
· A jail-diversion program that directs users into treatment