SAN DIEGO – San Diego City Councilmembers Marni von Wilpert and Raul Campillo held an Opioid Crisis Response Roundtable meeting Wednesday to hear from key stakeholders and experts about how to best allocate the first installment of settlement funds from opioid manufacturers. 

“San Diego is one of 2,000 cities and counties in the state that sued the opioid companies and manufacturers for the harm,” said von Wilpert. “We have seen hundreds of thousands of people dying across our nation of opioid overdose.”

The city will receive about $40 million over 18 years, and there are still outstanding cases, so more money will be on the way. This year, the city has $4.4 million in Mayor Todd Gloria’s June 12 budget. 

Councilmembers von Wilpert and Campillo want to make sure the money goes where it’s needed most.

“In the city of San Diego alone, the introduction of fentanyl has led to a staggering 2,345% increase in fatal overdoses in the last year,” said von Wilpert. “We are up from 33 deaths in 2016 to nearly 1,000 deaths in 2021 and we haven’t even gotten the statistics in from last year.”

The four main takeaways echoed by both councilmembers were a greater need for resources in early education and intervention, outreach, access to treatment, harm reduction such as Narcan, better connectivity of all resources available and reducing the stigma — something Campillo spoke to from personal experience.

“The idea of shame and embarrassment came up over and over again,” Camillo said. “In the year 2014, my older brother Alex passed away from an opioid accidental overdose. I know what that feels like, to wonder what more I could’ve done.”

Under the conditions of the settlement, at least half of the funds must be spent on substance abuse programs. 

In Gloria’s current budget, funds will go towards 66 residential drug treatment beds, 75 spaces for drug diversion and connection to drug treatment — that’s the city’s PLEADS program — and fully equipped vehicles for EMTs and police equipment to test and track fentanyl.