A Proclamation on Overdose Awareness Week, 2021
THE WHITE HOUSE
AUGUST 27, 2021
The overdose epidemic has taken a toll on far too many Americans and their loved ones. Addiction is a disease that touches families in every community, including my own. The epidemic is national, but the impact is personal. It is personal to the millions who confront substance use disorder every day, and to the families who have lost loved ones to an overdose. During Overdose Awareness Week, we recommit to taking bold actions to prevent overdoses and related deaths, and enhance our support for individuals with substance use disorders.
In recent years, we have seen synthetic opioids, such as illicitly manufactured fentanyl, drive many overdose deaths with cocaine- and methamphetamine-related deaths also increasing at alarming rates. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the overdose epidemic, as necessary pandemic restrictions made it harder for individuals with addiction to receive the treatment and support services they need. These factors contributed to the more than 93,000 drug overdose deaths in 2020. As a Nation, we need a strong response to America’s overdose epidemic and an investment in prevention, harm reduction, treatment and recovery services, as well as strategies to reduce the supply of illicit drugs.
Interview with Brad Friday, COAST Grant
Today we are talking with Brad Friday, Implementation Coordinator for the County Opioid Abuse Suppression Taskforce (COAST) Grant, Ventura County Behavioral Health, Substance Use Services - Prevention.
Hi Brad. Please describe your work with the COAST grant.
Brad: My work with COAST includes collection, dissemination, and publishing of pertinent County Opioid-related data via Public and Internal Dashboards, as well liaising between the requirements of the grant and our key stakeholders/partners.
How did you get interested in the field of prevention?
Brad: While serving as an Active-Duty Hospital Corpsman in the Navy, I was assigned to Marine Corps ground forces as a Field Medic. The prevention bug first bit while preparing/educating Marines prior to operational deployments rather than being strictly reactionary. After that tour I became a “Preventive Medicine Technician” within Navy Medicine which specialized in overall safety, health, and wellness of deployable forces within the Navy and Marine Corps.
What is your passion for working in the community?
Brad: It’s validating to contribute toward providing our diverse population a safe place to live and grow despite the challenges we face. This only happens by being at the ground level and interacting with the community along with our multi-agency partners who are working hard to achieve this mutual goal. My passion is to keep these threads tied together, to enhance these relationships and to maintain a unified front in suppressing the opioid crisis.
What are the areas that you hope to make changes in?
Brad: My goal in working within the COAST Project is to act as a conduit toward reducing opiate abuse, overdoses and overdose deaths via immediate communication of real-time data. This communication will then guide prevention, health care, and community leaders who join us in tackling the opioid crisis toward making more informed decisions.
Tell us one thing about you that helps us get to know you better?
Brad: I am originally from the Midwest but felt deeply connected to Ventura County upon being stationed in Port Hueneme some 20 years ago. While my career took me out of the county for a while, the attachment to this area never left. I’m not only happy that I get to live in this amazing area with so much to offer; I’m also increasingly proud I’m able to serve this community in this capacity.
Thank you Brad for sharing your experience with us. Your commitment and passion is inspiring.
Opioid Data Dashboard
Cocaine, Meth & Stimulant Summit
Guest Post, Sheila Murphy, COAST Grant Administrator
Led by multi-disciplinary experts from across the nation, the Cocaine, Meth & Stimulant Summit provides the most extensive educational experience for professionals on the frontlines of this rising epidemic.
The Cocaine, Meth & Stimulant Summit was held virtually from November 20-22, 2020. During a year in which conferences via Zoom have become the norm, the Summit came off seamlessly, while also informative and relevant. In its third year, the Cocaine, Meth & Stimulant Summit is the only educational event focused on addressing the Stimulant crisis. Drug overdoses in this country were increasing prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and have increased exponentially since March of this year.
Presentations included 28 live discussions, and two educational tracks, with field experts and change makers who work daily to address this emergency compounding the opioid epidemic. It provided a roster of clinical, law enforcement, and public health professionals with practical strategies and solutions. Stimulants have become increasingly prevalent in overdoses and addiction nationally and locally.
A session I attended on “Applying Best Practices to Communicate about Drug Overdose Prevention” shared that opioids were responsible for 60% of overdose deaths in 2018 across the country and sadly only 10% of those addicted to opioids ever receive treatment. Older people are less likely than the general population to perceive themselves at risk for addiction. Prevention communications about the dangers of opioid addiction to caregivers and first responders is essential.
Watch for my updates where I’ll share some more about lessons learned at the Summit.
Stats: 2.2 million people are current users of cocaine; 6 million Americans misuse prescription stimulants; 964,000 people aged 12 and older have a meth use disorder; and 0 is the number of FDA-approved medications to treat stimulant use disorder.
County launches dashboard to track opioid use, abuse
Simi Valley Acorn, September 18, 2020
Online resource made possible by federal grant aimed at addressing crisis.
The Ventura County Behavioral Health Department launched on Sept. 1 a public-facing data dashboard that provides the community with statistics about opioid-involved drug use. Dr. Loretta Denering, chief of the county’s Substance Use Services Division, said the new dashboard will be a valuable resource to county residents. “Local trends and resources, including addiction treatment locations, prescription drug drop-off locations and overdose prevention strategies, are featured,” she said. “Until now, there has never been a one-stop site.”
In 2018, the department was awarded a federal grant that, in collaboration with multiple agencies, has allowed for more innovative ways to address the opioid crisis. One of the grant efforts was to create the community dashboard in addition to tracking the nature and extent of the crisis locally, as well as providing more services to the public, especially those with an opioid-use disorder.
Ventura County Launches COAST Opioid Data Dashboard
Fewer Overdoses and Increased Access to Care Are Priorities
Ventura County agencies are working together to reduce illicit opioid supply, decrease opioid demand, and save lives. By sharing and comparing data, we can leverage information, analyze trends, and target resources to respond to this evolving public health crisis.
On September 1st, The Ventura County Behavioral Health Department (VCBH) launched a public-facing data dashboard that provides the community with important statistics around opioid involved drug use. The public can access this user-friendly dashboard by visiting www.coastventuracounty.org.
“Local trends and resources, including addiction treatment locations, prescription drug drop-off locations, and overdose prevention strategies are featured. This is a one-stop site."
— Dr. Loretta Denering, Chief, Substance Use Services Division
As a response to the opioid crisis, VCBH has prioritized increased access to care for opioid users. In October of 2018, VCBH was awarded a federal grant, that in collaboration with multiple agencies, including Public Health, Emergency Medical Services, Ambulatory Care, Sheriff’s Office and the Medical Examiner’s Office, has allowed for more innovative ways to address the crisis. One of the grant deliverables was to create this dashboard for the community, in addition to tracking the nature and extent of the crisis locally, as well as providing more services to the public, especially those with an opioid use disorder.
VCBH provides a continuum of care for substance use and addiction problems, with six locations and access to a range of treatment services for achieving and maintaining recovery.
“Getting help for addiction starts with taking fifteen minutes to call the Access Line, or visiting our dashboard. We want people to get to the help they need."
— Dr. Sevet Johnson, Director, Ventura County Behavioral Health
If you believe you or a family member may be struggling with addiction, talk to your healthcare provider or call the confidential 24/7 Access Line: 1-844-385-9200.
View Promotion Resources
Coast Data Dashboard
Video: Effects of COVID-19 on the Opioid Crisis, with Francis Collins and Nora Volkow
NIH Director, Dr. Francis Collins and NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow discuss how the COVID-19 pandemic may be escalating the opioid crisis and efforts to adapt research as a result of the convergence of two drastic health crises.
Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse, July 6, 2020
Vaping, Opioid Addiction Accelerate Coronavirus Risks, Says NIDA Director
Volkow spoke with Kaiser Health News about the emerging science around COVID-19’s relationship to vaping and to opioid use disorder, as well as how these underlying epidemics could increase people’s risks. In 2018, opioid overdoses claimed about 47,000 American lives. Last year, federal authorities reported that 5.4 million middle and high school students vaped. And just two months ago, about 2,800 cases of vaping-associated lung injuries resulted in hospitalizations; 68 people died. Until mid-March, these numbers commanded attention. But as the coronavirus death toll climbs and the economic costs of attempting to control its spread wreak havoc, the public health focus is now dramatically different.
Coronavirus Crisis Spurs Access To Online Treatment For Opioid Addiction
Opioid addiction isn't taking a break during the coronavirus pandemic, but the U.S. response to the viral crisis is making addiction treatment easier to get. Opioid addiction isn't taking a break during the coronavirus pandemic. But the U.S. response to the viral crisis is making addiction treatment easier to get. Under the national emergency declared by the Trump administration in March, the government has suspended a federal law that required patients to have an in-person visit with a physician before they could be prescribed drugs that help quell withdrawal symptoms, such as Suboxone. Patients can now get those prescriptions via a phone call or videoconference with a doctor
HHS Official: ‘Fourth Wave’ Looms in Drug Crisis
Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit 2020
Despite overall drug overdose-related deaths decreasing in 2018, other statistics indicate a rising “fourth wave” in the nation’s substance use disorder crisis means there is more work to be done, federal officials said in addresses presented during the evening plenary session of the virtual Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit on Wednesday.
Admiral Brett Giroir, MD, assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said methamphetamine-associated deaths saw a 20% to 30% year-over-year increase in 2018, with methamphetamine-associated deaths overtaking those linked to prescription opioids and heroin, with cocaine soon to be next. Polysubstance use is now the norm, Giroir said, noting that methamphetamine and illicit fentanyl or fentayl analogue use together is on the rise.
Researchers: Hope is on the horizon
Many clinical trials and research initiatives targeted to the opioid crisis have had to be placed on hold while our country focuses on responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the potential that awaits just over the horizon is encouraging, stated two of the country’s leading researchers. Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) – both long-time contributors to the Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit – joined Thursday, April 16, for a conversation to discuss the status of promising research.
U.S. Representatives: Don’t Dial Back Opioid Response Now
RX Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit.
In Wednesday’s morning plenary session in the Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit, three U.S. representatives expressed cautious optimism about the nation’s drug overdose death rate dropping by 4.6% in 2018—the first decline recorded in decades—but added that neither that development nor the COVID-19 crisis is a reason to throttle back now.
“For the first time in literally 20 years, the number of Americans who lost their lives to opioid overdose declined. Think about that. That’s bending the curve in a productive way. But obviously, the fight is not over. We’ll have to continue in the years ahead to devote additional resources to research, law enforcement and, most importantly, finding ways to help folks who have become addicted—usually through no fault of their own, usually by following a legitimate prescription given to them by a medical professional."
Officials worry of potential spike in overdose deaths amid COVID-19 pandemic
Health officials worry extended isolation could exacerbate the problem. Health officials acknowledged there could be a myriad of potential factors behind the increase of overdoses in some communities, with a primary concern being the obstacles that social distancing orders have created for public health services like addiction clinics and syringe exchange services.
For Drug Users, COVID-19 Poses Added Dangers
The National Institute on Drug Abuse director warns the coronavirus could increase the pressure to use, cause complicated health effects and curtail access to treatment for those struggling with addiction. As the novel coronavirus spreads and more states issue stay-at-home orders in the U.S., the head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse says social isolation and overburdened health systems could paint a dire picture for people struggling with addiction.
"Every one of us is affected by COVID – maybe we don't get infected, (but) we're all anxious because of the uncertainties" surrounding it, NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow says. "How we cope with that anxiety is very much dependent on multiple factors, including our circumstances, but one of the ways that people cope with it is by taking drugs."
Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit 2020
The Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit, a 2020 Virtual Experience, begins today through April 16. VCBH staff have been attending the Rx Summit since its inception in 2012. We brought back the inspiration and the momentum of the Rx Summit annually to inform our efforts to address the opioid crisis at home in Ventura County.
“The same power, the same drive that prompted you to be a part of the solution – to beat back the opioid epidemic, to save lives, and bring illegal drug dealers to justice – it’s that same victorious spirit that will carry this nation through the coronavirus pandemic. Together, we have witnessed a dramatic shift in the stigma behind drug abuse, and most importantly we have seen the number of overdose deaths finally decrease across the country – falling from more than 70,000 in 2017 to under 68,000 in 2018, according to the CDC. It’s a direct result of your comprehensive work. We have ambushed the opioid epidemic on every side – through improvements in law enforcement, treatment and education.” - Congressman Hal Rogers
NIDA director outlines potential risks to people who smoke and use drugs during COVID-19 pandemic
The precarious intersection of the COVID-19 national health emergency and the concurrent epidemic of drug overdose deaths is outlined in the Annals of Internal Medicine this week by Dr. Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Volkow discusses how the serious health risks of COVID-19 pose unique challenges to people who smoke or vape, are already struggling with substance use disorders (SUD), or are in recovery from addiction.
People recovering from addiction now face new challenges. Physical distancing measures, while critical to COVID-19 mitigation, eliminate the important element of social support needed for addiction recovery. Additionally, people with opioid use disorder may face barriers to obtaining medications (i.e., buprenorphine or methadone) or obtaining services from syringe services programs. Social distancing will also decrease the likelihood of observed overdoses; administration of naloxone to reverse overdose may be less likely, potentially resulting in more fatalities.
NIDA. (2020, April 2). NIDA Director outlines potential risks to people who smoke and use drugs during COVID-19 pandemic. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/news-releases/2020/04/nida-director-outlines-potential-risks-to-people-who-smoke-use-drugs-during-covid-19-pandemic on 2020, April 2
National Prescription Drug Take Back Day Postponed
The upcoming National Prescription Drug Take Back Day scheduled for Saturday, April 25, 2020, is postponed due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. DEA will reschedule Take Back Day for a date shortly after the health crisis recedes and national emergency guidelines are lifted.
Opioid Withdrawal Raises Health Risks for Injection Drug Users: Study
Having opioid withdrawal symptoms increases the odds that injection drug users will share needles or have a non-fatal overdose, new research suggests. For the study, the researchers questioned more than 800 injection drug users in San Francisco and Los Angeles. "Withdrawal is one of the main chronic health challenges for this population, and we need to be intervening on it," said lead author Ricky Bluthenthal. He's associate dean for social justice at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine, in Los Angeles. An average 130 people a day die in the United States from an opioid overdose, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Needle sharing increases a person's risk of infections such as HIV and hepatitis, as well as other serious health problems, the CDC says.
News: Lethally potent counterfeit pills taking more lives with drug overdoses in Ventura County
More Ventura County drug abusers are overdosing on pills that look like real medications but are often spiked with a lethally potent synthetic opioid, according to authorities. While the overall number of overdoses appears to be holding steady, authorities are seeing a lower proportion from the street forms of drugs that are injected or smoked, according to the Ventura County Pharmaceutical Crimes Unit. Instead, the trend since the last quarter of 2019 is toward look-alikes of commonly abused prescription pills.
Armed with overdose drug Narcan, Oxnard police aim to reduce opioid fatalities
Ventura County Star
Public safety personnel locally and nationwide have seen a dramatic increase in drug overdose calls in recent years. In 2018, Oxnard police responded to 190 overdose calls, or nearly four per week. The Oxnard Police Department has responded to the opioid epidemic by training officers to administer an overdose-reversal drug and changing the protocol for logging overdose calls. In early 2018, the department began equipping officers with naloxone, also known as Narcan, a nasal spray that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. Today, 150 officers are equipped with naloxone kits, Cmdr. Sharon Giles said Tuesday in a report to the City Council.
“If you have someone that you believe is suffering from drug dependency and has overdosed, this goes into the nostril, a couple pumps and it’s administered,” Giles told the council while showing the nasal spray. In 2018, 19 of the 96 opioid-related deaths in Ventura County were in Oxnard. Figures for 2019 were not yet available, but Giles said she expects the number will be lower due to naloxone. 2019 was the first full year in which officers were equipped with naloxone. Officers used the nasal spray nine times.