SAN DIEGO – The director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy visited San Diego Saturday to lay out the Biden administration’s plan to crack down on illegal drugs crossing into the U.S. and reduce overdose deaths in the country.

“We’re losing a life every five minutes around the clock,” said Dr. Rahul Gupta, the administration’s drug czar.

Speaking in Serra Mesa, Gupta shared a plan the administration hopes will slow the pace of deaths tied to drugs in the U.S. In the past year, he said stimulants like methamphetamine have tragically touched the lives of families across the nation, responsible for the deaths of some 32,000 Americans in a 12-month period.

“That itself is tragic because that number is rising at a very fast pace,” Gupta said.

To rein in deaths from illicit drug use, Gupta said the administration wants to remove barriers to treatment services and harm-reduction services, such as ensuring supplies of fentanyl test strips, syringes and Naloxone, a drug overdose reversal drug. Also targeted is drug prevention in schools, particularly among underserved populations including those with high poverty rates and income inequality.

Other strategies mentioned by Gupta involve:

  • Training and education for health care providers;
  • Coordination with domestic law enforcement agencies to combat drug trafficking;
  • Additional oversight of equipment used to make pills;
  • Fostering international partnerships with Mexico, India and China to disrupt trafficking; and
  • Expanding training for domestic and international law enforcement.

Many of the actions mentioned by Gupta previously were laid out in the White House’s National Drug Control Strategy. The 152-page document is available by clicking or tapping here.

Gupta was joined Saturday by several local officials such as San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan, who highlighted the need for drug prevention efforts in her remarks.

“If we can save a life and prevent that life from becoming engaged in the use of methamphetamine or intervene early, we not only save that life,” Stephan said. “We save the life of that family around it because it creates a lot of family violence and we save our community from additional harm.”

U.S. Rep. Scott Peters, a Democrat from California’s 52nd congressional district, also was on hand, noting 722 San Diegans died from drug overdoses in the past year alone.

Local leaders say efforts to combat the tragic trend will take action and support from all.

“We also need and enlist the help of the community,” says Nick Macchione, San Diego County’s director of the health and human services agency. “We can not do this alone.”