The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to declare the illicit use and distribution of the pain-management opioid fentanyl a public health crisis.
San Diego County has seen fentanyl deaths skyrocket over the last five years — from 33 in 2016 to more than 800 in 2021.
The declaration of a public health crisis will allow San Diego County to devote more resources fentanyl education, treatment, recovery, and harm reduction strategies — including the distribution of Naloxone to treat overdoses.
The public health declaration was proposed by Supervisors Jim Desmond and Terra Lawson-Remer.
“Young people across our county are dying tragic deaths from fentanyl,” said Lawson-Remer. “With this vote, the county is redoubling our commitment to keeping San Diegans safe from dangerous drug overdoses.”
“By declaring illicit fentanyl a public health crisis, we elevate awareness and take the first step in putting the public on notice,” said Desmond. “We need to start treating illicit fentanyl as a poison, whose victims are unknowing, and letting our kids know that one pill can kill.”
The Border Patrol has called attention to an increasing amount of smuggled fentanyl, which is often laced with other drugs. Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent that morphine, and small amounts can kill.