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County working with partners to address opioid overdoses

July 18, 2017

Placer County’s Health and Human Services Department is working with local law enforcement, medical providers, community groups and residents to address opioid overdoses in our community through a variety of strategies, including increased access to life-saving medication.

Naloxone is a medication that can reverse an opioid overdose if administered in time. A new grant from the California Department of Public Health will allow naloxone to be distributed to law enforcement throughout Placer County.

Many local first responders already carry naloxone. The county has worked closely with the Placer Nevada County Medical Society to form Rx Drug Safety, a coalition spanning Placer and Nevada counties that is working across disciplines and county lines to prevent and respond to overdoses. Rx Drug Safety, with funding from the California Health Care Foundation, has supplied police officers in the cities of Roseville and Grass Valley with naloxone administration kits.

“This increased access to naloxone will help local law enforcement give people a second chance at life,” said Placer County Health Officer Dr. Rob Oldham. “But we still need the community to exercise caution around both prescription and illicit opioids.”

This intensified effort to address opioid overdoses comes in response to large numbers of opioid overdoses in the region, including an epidemic of overdose deaths in spring of 2016 that were found to be related to counterfeit Norco tablets that were laced with fentanyl, an extremely potent and dangerous narcotic.

While the epidemic of overdose deaths related to fentanyl-laced “fake Norco” appears to be over, it is increasingly common all over the United States — including Placer County — for heroin to be laced with fentanyl and other even more dangerous drugs. This results in an even higher risk of overdoses and deaths for people who use heroin.

"Unfortunately, much of the heroin in our community may be laced with fentanyl and other narcotics that are even more dangerous than heroin," Oldham said. "Using heroin or any prescription drug that does not belong to you is gambling with your life. We urge people suffering with addictions to get into treatment before it is too late."

The Health and Human Services department and its partners are working to expand access to treatment for opioid addiction. Placer County residents interested in more information on addiction treatment can call (530) 889-7240.

Opioid overdose is a major public health problem across the nation. This epidemic has not spared Placer County. According to the most recent data, approximately 40 of every 100,000 county residents visited an emergency room for an opioid-related issue and lived — but 10 in 100,000 died due to drug use. While opioid addiction and overdose used to be associated only with heroin, many people with opioid addiction now start by getting hooked on prescription painkillers. There are an estimated 852 opioid prescriptions per 1,000 residents in Placer County.

Residents are advised to:

  • Follow directions for prescribed use.
  • Store medications securely.
  • Use safe disposal sites or Rx Take Back events. Do not flush medications down the toilet.
  • Avoid sharing or using others’ medications.
  • Do not combine opioids with alcohol, certain other medications and some over-the-counter products.
  • Current users should carry naloxone and not use opioids alone.

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