State Senator Dave Cortese (D-San Jose) recently introduced legislation to prevent opioid and fentanyl overdoses and death among California’s youth.
Senate Bill (SB) 10, should it be approved and signed into law, would expand statewide prevention and education efforts to combat the skyrocketing overdoses and fentanyl-related deaths that have plagued youth statewide.
“We have a crisis of fentanyl poisoning and death among our youth that we must meet with urgency and the sweeping action it requires,” Cortese said. “I am committed to working with our educational partners and community to reverse the alarming rise in fentanyl overdoses and deaths. Through universal preventative measures, we can save lives.”
The Santa Clara County Fentanyl Working Group works to distribute information on the impact of fentanyl in partnership with the Santa Clara County Office of Education, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, Santa Clara County Behavioral Health Services and the Santa Clara County Opioid Overdose Prevention Project. Since its development last spring, this group has already saved the lives of two students in San Jose in one month, according to Cortese’s office.
This model inspired SB 10, Cortese said.
“The Santa Clara County Office of Education is proud to sponsor this important legislation which will help spread awareness of the dangers of fentanyl and establish better access to lifesaving medication,” Santa Clara County Superintendent of Schools Mary Ann Dewan said. “Narcan kits and training provided to school staff in Santa Clara County over the last few months have already been successfully used to save students’ lives.”
The bill will include:
• Requiring local education agencies (school districts, county offices of education and charter schools) to embed opioid overdose prevention and treatment in their School Safety Plans, including synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl.
• Distributing Opioid Antagonist Training and School Resource Guides to all local education agencies regarding the emergency use of opioid antagonists, such as naloxone, on school campuses.
• Distributing safety advice to families regarding opioid overdose prevention including through student orientation materials and through posting online information.
• Establishing a State Working Group on Fentanyl Overdose/Abuse Prevention focused on public education, awareness, prevention and minimizing overdoses.
• Setting up a framework to incentivize County Working Groups on Fentanyl Overdose/Abuse Prevention like the model in Santa Clara County through a new state grant program.
According to news reports, fentanyl was responsible for one in five youth deaths (ages 15 to 24) in California last year. In one year alone (2019-2020), fentanyl overdoses among youth nearly doubled.
Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids were responsible for more than 105,000 deaths in America from October 2020 to October 2021, with 69,000 deaths being caused by fentanyl.
“There is such a sense of urgency to the fentanyl crisis that I commend Senator Cortese for using Santa Clara County’s Fentanyl Working Group as the prototype for a statewide response to fentanyl poisoning deaths,” Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez said. “When I established the Fentanyl Working Group in early 2022 with Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen, we hit the ground running. Within a few months we have been able to get Narcan into most high schools, held meetings with parents and students and developed a communications campaign to connect with teens and young adults who are buying pills online not knowing they are laced with fentanyl.”