A 17-year-old Santa Clarita girl at Concerts in the Park. A 24-year-old Castaic man who worked in construction. A 20-year-old Canyon Country man.
All seemingly among the consequences of a deadly epidemic: fentanyl.
In response to a national crisis that increasingly is showing up in Santa Clarita Valley homes, streets and even parks, The Signal, county Supervisor Kathryn Barger, the city of Santa Clarita, the SCV Sheriff’s Station, the William S. Hart Union High School District and other community partners are teaming up for a Fentanyl Town Hall at 6 p.m. Jan. 12.
During the event, 150 doses of naloxone — broadly known by the brand name Narcan — will be distributed to attendees. Naloxone is an FDA-approved nasal spray that can rapidly reverse an opioid overdose in an emergency situation.
“This town hall is about empowering parents with information to keep their kids safe from the fentanyl crisis that’s tragically ending young lives,” said Barger, who represents the 5th District, which includes the SCV, in a statement sent via text. “The danger of fentanyl poisoning lurks in every community — it’s naive to think it’s not present in our local schools. The best way to fight fentanyl and save lives is by educating oneself.”
The impetus for the forum was a series of overdoses in the first week of December, according to Signal Publisher Richard Budman, who credited the city and county agencies for their willingness to take part when approached last month about the idea.
“Santa Clarita is a thriving community due in large part to our residents coming together to support and protect one another,” Santa Clarita Mayor Jason Gibbs said in a statement shared via text Wednesday. “Events like The Signal’s Fentanyl Town Hall are critical because they help educate the public about dangers facing our neighborhoods and give residents vital resources and information that will save lives.”
A Dec. 6 incident at Bouquet Canyon Park under investigation by sheriff’s deputies resulted in five individuals, ages 18 to 30, overdosing on fentanyl, according to the Sheriff’s Department’s Overdose Response Task Force, which responded to the fatal overdose of 35-year-old Brandon Shubunka about one-third of a mile away the following day. The cause of Shubunka’s death is still under investigation by medical examiners with the coroner’s office as of Wednesday.
“This is not, by any means, meant to be an answer to the fentanyl crisis — this is a last resort to try and save lives,” Budman said in reference to the 150 doses of naloxone that will be given out to adults who are interested.
The city of Santa Clarita began tracking fatal overdoses in response to community concerns in March 2021, according to an email from Carrie Lujan, spokeswoman for the city of Santa Clarita.
From that point to the end of 2021, the city reported there were 13 overdose deaths. In 2022, officials believe there have been at least 31, although Lujan noted the 2022 figure could end up being even higher, as some of those deaths are still being investigated by the coroner’s office.
The town hall, for individuals 18 and over, is intended for parents. Budman said he realized how severe the concern was among officials when he mentioned the idea to several officials and within about 24 hours, all four agencies offered to help.
“Our governing board believes that education and support can make a difference and save lives,” according to an email statement Wednesday by Hart District Superintendent Mike Kuhlman. “I hope parents will attend the Fentanyl Town Hall and equip themselves with information and resources that can prevent another tragedy in the Santa Clarita Valley. I’m proud that our community is working together and taking a proactive stance on this important issue.”
The naloxone is being provided by Los Angeles County.
“Parents, family members and the community at large need to know how to spot the signs of drug use and how to talk with youth in a way that truly reaches them,” Barger added. “I’m a proud partner of this town hall event that will convene experts to discuss these topics, dispel rumors and answer questions. I’m hopeful Santa Clarita community members will take advantage of this opportunity.”
The event will offer a panel discussion with perspective from the local high school district, city, county and SCV Sheriff’s Station, as well as hospital staff, drug treatment experts and a county prosecutor.
Sgt. Jason Viger of the Sheriff’s Department’s Overdose Response Task Force said that since the team was formed in July of last year, the station has received notifications regarding 143 suspected overdose deaths throughout Los Angeles County, 18 of which were in the SCV.
As of four days into 2023, the department received two more notifications of deaths suspected to be linked to overdoses, neither of which were in Santa Clarita.
The 18-and-older event is scheduled 6 p.m. Jan. 12 at the Canyon Country Community Center, 18410 Sierra Highway in Santa Clarita. For more information, call 661-287-5501.