Pubdate: Sun, 17 Jul 2016
Source: Orange County Register, The (CA)
Copyright: 2016 The Orange County Register


With fatal drug overdoses at a 10-year high in O.C., it is important 
to take the time to reevaluate our approach to drug abuse and tackle 
the harms of such abuse through evidence-based practices proven to save lives.

According to reporting by the Register, at least 400 people lost 
their lives last year due to drug overdoses. More than two-thirds of 
the overdoses last year were tied to opioids.

Given the tremendous stigma around drug use and abuse, it is often 
too difficult for people with substance abuse problems to reach out 
for help. Ingrained and institutionalized attitudes against drug use 
have in turn left few resources beyond the criminal justice system to 
actually assist those in need.

Fortunately, this has slowly begun to shift in O.C. Some county 
sheriff's deputies have begun to carry naloxone, a drug which can be 
administered via injection or nasal spray and reverse opioid 
overdoses. Communities across the country have proven that equipping 
police and other first-responders with naloxone can save lives.

In light of the growing trend of fatal overdoses, it is imperative 
that this become the norm in O.C. But beyond police and 
first-responders, it is vital that at-risk populations be given 
greater access to the drug in the first place.

Towards this end, the Solace Foundation of Orange County, founded by 
Aimee Dunkle and Margie Fleitman, who each lost a child to drug 
overdoses, have actively distributed hundreds of naloxone kits that 
have revived over 100 people from overdoses. The group has run low on 
their supply of naloxone, but recently received 200 naloxone nasal 
spray kits from Adapt Pharma, which should last about five weeks, 
according to Ms. Dunkle.

"The most important thing is providing it to the most vulnerable," 
said Ms. Dunkle. "It's about opening dialogue with those with active 
drug users."

The Solace Foundation works together with the Orange County Needle 
Exchange Program, started in February as the county's first and only 
program where injection drug users may turn in used needles for clean 
ones. The program operates on Saturdays at 12 p.m. in the plaza 
behind City Hall in Santa Ana.

Such programs have proven effective in cities like San Francisco and 
countries like Taiwan to not only reduce the risk of chronic, 
communicable diseases like hepatitis and HIV, but also to connect 
drug users to social services and drug treatment.

But the Solace Foundation and the OCNEP can't do it alone. There must 
be a greater effort in the county to address the harms of drug abuse 
before more fatalities occur.
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