Fentanyl Deaths Starting to Fall in Orange County, Say Local Leaders

Fentanyl Deaths Starting to Fall in Orange County, Say Local Leaders

Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley holds naloxone next to Aliso Viejo Councilman Ross Chun in Aliso Viejo, Calif., on May 16, 2024. (Rudy Blalock/The Epoch Times)

Rudy Blalock

Rudy Blalock

5/17/2024

Updated: 5/19/2024

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Orange County municipal and law enforcement officials came together May 16 in Aliso Viejo as part of a “Fentanyl is Forever” campaign, educating the public on how to prevent overdoses from the dangerous drug.
Citing data from the state’s Department of Public Health, officials with the Orange County Health Care Agency discussed the prevalence of opioid overdose-related deaths, which they say has increased by 675 percent in the state between 2018 and 2022.
Board of Supervisors Fifth District representative Katrina Foley—who is spearheading the awareness campaign—highlighted how Orange County in recent years has seen a downward trend in opioid-related deaths, thanks, in part, to local efforts.
“We do think the numbers are coming down, mainly because we are starting to educate people more [and] getting the word out more, especially to our youth,” Ms. Foley said.
There were 647 fentanyl-related deaths in Orange County in 2021 which dropped to 555 in 2022, according to Ms. Foley, citing the most recent data available.
Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley speaks at a fentanyl town hall in Aliso Viejo, Calif., on May 16, 2024. (Rudy Blalock/The Epoch Times)

Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley speaks at a fentanyl town hall in Aliso Viejo, Calif., on May 16, 2024. (Rudy Blalock/The Epoch Times)

Statewide such deaths have increased year-by-year with fentanyl overdoses more than doubling from 2019 to 2020, rising by 50 percent the following year, and most recently increasing by 8.6 percent in 2022 with 6,473 related deaths recorded, according to state department of public health data.
It takes just a small amount of fentanyl to kill—an amount equal to just two grains of salt—which the supervisor said is why so many are dying as the drug is increasingly found laced in prescription pills and recreational drugs.
Orange County Fire Authority Fire Captain Matthew Levesque said there have been incidents where paramedics accidentally came into contact with the drug during calls for service and were sent to the hospital for treatment, because even touching the deadly drug can be life-threatening.
“We have had situations where our first responders have contacted fentanyl and other substances that have had an effect on them,” he said.
He noted that the use of naloxone, a drug commonly used to reverse the impacts of opioids, has been instrumental in treating overdose victims.
“It’s one of our medications that immediately has a lifesaving effect,” he said.
Deaths due to fentanyl in Orange County youth—ages 10 to 24 years—also fell between 2021 and 2022 by over 50 percent, with 45 deaths recorded in 2022 versus 98 in 2021.
As the drug continues to dominate the streets, accounting for more deaths nationwide than any other drug, according to officials, local efforts to educate residents on how to administer naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan, may help reduce deaths.
Robin Rush, founder of Recovery Road, speaks during a fentanyl town hall in Aliso Viejo, Calif., on May 16, 2024. (Rudy Blalock/The Epoch Times)

Robin Rush, founder of Recovery Road, speaks during a fentanyl town hall in Aliso Viejo, Calif., on May 16, 2024. (Rudy Blalock/The Epoch Times)

According to Robin Rush, founder of the nonprofit Recovery Road, which offers drug treatment services in Orange County, most are unaware that the treatment has no side effects.
During the 90-minute presentation Thursday evening, speakers noted how Narcan can be administered to anyone, even someone who may not have opioids in their system.
The medication is dispensed through the nose, like a nasal spray. A second dose is typically required one to two minutes after the first. Empty or used Narcan bottles should be retained to allow first-responders to determine how much of the medication was used on someone suspected of overdosing.
Orange County residents can pick up the medication for free in several locations including Recovery Road in Anaheim, Twin Town Treatment Centers in Laguna Hills, and The Purpose of Recovery in Tustin, on select days.
More resources can be found at fentanylisforeveroc.org
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Rudy Blalock

Rudy Blalock

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Rudy Blalock is a Southern California-based daily news reporter for The Epoch Times. Originally from Michigan, he moved to California in 2017, and the sunshine and ocean have kept him here since. In his free time, he may be found underwater scuba diving, on top of a mountain hiking or snowboarding—or at home meditating, which helps fuel his active lifestyle.

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