By Tommy Nguyen and Citlalli Florez
SANTA CLARA, CA – State Senator Dave Cortese (D-San Jose) introduced new legislation on the first day of Legislative Session this week, designed to prevent opioid and fentanyl overdoses and death among California’s youth.
The Mercury News, Cortese’s press statement said, reported last year in California fentanyl was responsible for one in five deaths for youth between the ages of 15 to 24. In one year, 2019-2020, fentanyl overdoses in youth nearly doubled with the trend increasing.
The lawmaker’s office noted synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, were responsible for more than 105,000 deaths in America from October 2020 to October 2021. Sixty-nine thousand of these deaths were caused by fentanyl use. Fentanyl is responsible for more deaths in youth than all other drugs combined.
Cortese’s Senate Bill 10 will expand interstate prevention and education efforts to combat the soaring 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. Through universal preventative measures, we can save lives,” Cortese said.
The state lawmaker said the model that inspired his legislation is the Santa Clara County Fentanyl Working Group, under the leadership of Supervisor Cindy Chavez, which works to distribute widespread information on the impact of fentanyl in partnership with the Santa Clara Office of Education, District Attorney’s Office, Behavioral Health Services, and the Opioid Overdose Prevention Project.
Noting that the working group has already saved the lives of two students in San Jose in one month since its development last spring, Cortese said any solution to this crisis must include universal preventative measures that will result in lifesaving outcomes for young people.
“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 death,” said Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez.
Chavez added, “Within a few months we have been able to get the Narcan [program] into most high schools, held meetings with parents and students and developed a communications campaign to connect with teens and young adults.”
The Santa Clara County Office of Education is a sponsor for Cortese’s legislation with plans to spread awareness of the dangers of fentanyl and establish better access to life saving medication. Narcan kits and training provided to school staff in the county over the last few months have already been used to save students’ lives.
The bill, said Cortese, was written to create interventions, increase resource accessibility, and to provide education and training for the protection of youth from fentanyl poisoning and overdose.
SB 10 would include, said the lawmaker, to require local education agencies to incorporate opioid overdose prevention programs and a treatment plan in their School Safety regiment. This would include the use of synthetic opioids like fentanyl.
The measure would also mandate distribution of opioid antagonist training and school resource guides to local education agencies on school campuses. The guides would have information regarding the use of emergency opioid antagonists like naloxone.
The bill also would require distribution of safety advice regarding opioid overdose prevention through student orientation materials and informative online posts, establish a state working group on fentanyl overdose, and start an abuse prevention with public education, awareness, prevention and minimizing overdoses and creation of a state grant program for incentivizing county working groups for fentanyl overdose and abuse prevention.