In a 24-hour period last month, there were six overdoses and one fatality from fentanyl, in and near Bouquet Canyon Park. The victims ranged in ages from 18 to 35.
Fentanyl has become a nationwide problem but it has become especially prevalent here in Santa Clarita. City officials say there have been at least 31 local overdose deaths in 2022.
Drugs on the black market can get into the hands of young people as easily as the click of a mouse. Counterfeit drugs are sold on websites and social media. Kids may think they are buying a harmless drug and unknowingly overdose on fentanyl.
Nationwide, 200 people die from fentanyl overdoses daily. According to a report by the Los Angeles County Public Health Department in November, accidental fentanyl overdose deaths increased by more than 1,200% from 2016 to 2021. Fentanyl overdose emergency visits in hospitals increased by 308% during the same period.
In response to this nationwide scourge and crisis that has popped up all over Santa Clarita, The Signal, Supervisor Kathryn Barger and Los Angeles County, the city of Santa Clarita, the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station and the William S. Hart Union High School District, along with other community partners, are teaming up to present a Fentanyl Town Hall meeting and discussion on Thursday, Jan. 12, at 6 p.m.
As part of the town hall, we will be distributing up to 150 doses of naloxone — the overdose reversal drug commonly known by the brand name Narcan — to help parents and others save lives.
We have decided as a group that something must be done. We can’t continue to let these tragic and unnecessary deaths go unchallenged.
How important of an issue has this become?
I casually suggested the town hall meeting and Narcan distribution to Carrie Lujan, communications division manager for the city of Santa Clarita, and called Stephanie English of Supervisor Barger’s office, Capt. Justin Diez from the SCV Sheriff’s Station and Superintendent Mike Kuhlman at the Hart district, and within 24 hours all four government bodies said they wanted to become a part of the Fentanyl Town Hall.
When have you ever seen four government agencies make a decision and do something in 24 hours?
This town hall is about educating parents with information to help keep their kids safe from the fentanyl that’s ending young lives. We want to give parents the tools to talk with their kids about the dangers of fentanyl and counterfeit drugs, and how to spot the physical and emotional signs of substance abuse and dependency. We will have a panel of experts, including representatives from the local high school district, city, county, fire and SCV Sheriff’s Station as well as Public Health medical officials, hospital staff, drug treatment experts and a county prosecutor to answer any questions that you may have.
We will also have a Narcan demonstration on how to use this lifesaving drug and a free distribution of 150 doses to attendees. Narcan is an FDA-approved nasal spray that can rapidly reverse an opioid overdose in an emergency situation if administered within a few minutes of overdose.
I want to make it clear that the distribution of the Narcan is not a get out of jail free card for kids to use as a safety net. This is a last resort effort to save lives. In fact, we are not allowing anyone under the age of 18 to attend the town hall.
The Narcan is not by any means an answer to the fentanyl crisis, either. We are distributing the Narcan to parents as a tool that we hope they will never need — but it will be there if they need to use it to save the lives of their kids or their neighbors’ kids in the event of an overdose emergency.
I would like to personally thank Supervisor Kathryn Barger, Santa Clarita Mayor Jason Gibbs, Hart Superintendent Mike Kuhlman and sheriff’s Capt. Justin Diez for their courage and leadership in tackling this very important issue head-on.
If you have kids in school, I urge you to come to our town hall and get educated on the dangers of fentanyl and counterfeit drugs, and learn about Narcan.
The 18-and-older event is scheduled 6 p.m. Jan. 12 at the Canyon Country Community Center, 18410 Sierra Highway in Santa Clarita. It will also be livestreamed on The Signal’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/signalscv.
Richard Budman is owner and publisher of The Signal.