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Home / News / Health / State, LA County expand efforts to prevent fentanyl overdoses

State, LA County expand efforts to prevent fentanyl overdoses

by Joe Taglieri
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California’s Naloxone Distribution Project now includes fentanyl test strips in overdose prevention kits distributed statewide, officials announced Thursday.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan for combatting the opioid crisis allotted $6 million to add the fentanyl-detection strips to overdose prevention kits that have naloxone, a drug that can reverse an overdose and is commonly known as Narcan or Evzio. 

The kits have reversed more than 249,000 reported opioid overdoses since the California Department of Health Care Services Department launched the naloxone project in 2018, according to the DHCS. More than 3.9 million overdose prevention kits have been distributed to municipalities and community organizations.

More than 550,000 fentanyl test strips have been distributed within the effort’s first week, according to the governor’s office.

“California is committed to combatting the opioid and fentanyl crisis,” DHCS Director Michelle Baass said in a statement. “Fentanyl test strips are a powerful tool for effective opioid-related overdose prevention. We urge our community partners to apply for this additional tool to help us tackle this crisis.”

Some eligible organizations are first responders including paramedics, firefighters, law enforcement authorities; courts and criminal justice organizations; community organizations including libraries, veterans groups and religious organizations; “harm reductions organizations”; schools and universities; organizations that serve the homeless population; hospitals and medical facilities; addiction recovery and therapy facilities; county public health or behavioral health agencies; city agencies; and tribal entities​, according to the state.

“Harm reduction programs like this one are a huge part of how we better protect people, how we get them into treatment,” California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly said in a statement. “This work is time tested. Shame isn’t a solution; support and science-driven policy is.”

LA County libraries expand naloxone clinics

On Wednesday, Los Angeles County health officials announced the addition of naloxone clinics at 10 libraries.

The clinics will operate Wednesdays from noon to 4 p.m. through June 26 at these locations: A C Bilbrew Library, East Los Angeles Library, El Monte Library, Lancaster Library, Leland R. Weaver Library, Lennox Library, Norwalk Library, San Fernando Library, Temple City Library and West Hollywood Library.

Staff at the clinics will provide naloxone kits and offer training to visitors on how to administer the overdose prevention drug.

“Libraries are trusted community spaces where people seek information and resources. Through our Naloxone clinics, we’re extending our reach to contribute to the health and wellbeing of our neighbors,” Los Angeles County Library Director Skye Patrick said in a statement.

Naloxone is a nasal spray that can swiftly stop the effects of opioid overdoses. Officials hope the clinics will stem the rising number of overdose deaths, especially those tied to fentanyl, which is the leading cause of overdose deaths in the county.

Fentanyl earned deadliest-drug-in-the-region status when the opioid caused about 59% of the alcohol and drug overdose deaths in 2022, surpassing methamphetamine deaths, according to the LA County Department of Public Health’s Bureau of Substance Abuse Prevention and Control.

The bureau also logged a 1,652% increase in accidental fentanyl overdose fatalities between 2016 and 2022, skyrocketing from 109 to 1,910 deaths.

“In the worst overdose crisis in local history, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health welcomes L.A. County Library’s leadership to promote universal access to Naloxone,” agency Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. “Naloxone is a lifesaving medicine that quickly reverses an opioid overdose. Community access means more lives can be saved.”

More information on the overdose prevention clinics is online at lacountylibrary.org/naloxone.

The state recently launched opioids.ca.gov, a hub for overdose prevention and treatment resources that also has information “on how California is working to hold Big Pharma and drug-traffickers accountable in this crisis,” officials said.

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