Red Ribbon Week -- October 23rd to 31st -- delivers a strong anti-drug message to school children nationwide. I strongly support this annual program, and again this year my office is distributing thousands of Red Ribbon certificates to schools throughout the 75th Assembly District.
In 2021, there were almost 6,000 overdose deaths in California – most of them fentanyl-related. That’s an increase of 121% in three years. Fentanyl has become the number one killer of persons aged 18 to 45 in San Diego County. The drug is 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. It comes in various forms, and can be made to look like any prescription pill. Even a very small amount can be lethal.
Most fentanyl is smuggled across California’s southern border. U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized more than 22,000 pounds of fentanyl between October 2022 and June, 2023. That compares to 8,300 pounds seized the previous year. Even though California has spent more than $1 billion to reign in this deadly epidemic, the problem has grown.
Help is available. Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT), is considered the gold standard in treating opioid addictions. However, several areas in San Diego County located within the75th Assembly District have been identified as Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs). Lack of treatment options, and the long driving distances involved can limit effective and timely treatments. That can cost lives.
This session I introduced AB 1233 to help make Naloxone and other fentanyl antidotes more available in tribal areas. The bill was recently signed into law by the Governor. But we need to do all we can to prevent overdoses by spreading the word about the dangers of drug abuse – the message thousands of students receive during Red Ribbon Week.
By using MAT, educational programs like Red Ribbon Week, and enhanced law enforcement against drug traffickers, this deadly scourge can be stopped. We can save thousands of lives.