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Riverside County Committee To Combat Fentanyl Abuse

July 1, 2021


Supervisors Approve Awareness Campaign, Creation of Multidisciplinary Committee 

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors is launching a fentanyl-abuse awareness campaign in a bid to combat rising cases of overdoses and deaths from the dangerous drug.

The Board unanimously approved an initiative — co-sponsored by Chair Karen Spiegel and Supervisor Chuck Washington — to establish a multidisciplinary committee that will inform the public about the dangers of fentanyl. The Board’s vote Tuesday requires the committee to provide quarterly reports on the County’s efforts to fight fentanyl abuse, to identify gaps in the County’s response and recommend solutions, and to seek state and federal grants for fentanyl abuse awareness and education.

“The far-reaching devastation of fentanyl is measured in human lives and families ripped apart,” said Supervisor Karen Spiegel. “Through the establishment of this countywide campaign, we are taking a crucial step forward in the fight against this epidemic.”

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 80 to 100 times more potent than morphine and about 50 times more potent than heroin. Since 2016, there has been an 800 percent increase in fentanyl-related deaths in Riverside County. Since the beginning of 2021, there have been 43 overdose deaths involving fentanyl in Riverside County. It only takes about two milligrams of fentanyl to have potentially lethal consequences for most people. To put that amount in perspective, it takes 5,000 milligrams to make a teaspoon.

“Fentanyl has rapidly become a public health crisis. We have to take it seriously and confront the issue directly so that we can keep our communities safe, prevent addiction and save lives,” said Supervisor Chuck Washington, whose district includes southwest Riverside County where law enforcement seized several kilos of fentanyl earlier this year.

The vote this week comes just months after the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office became the first in Southern California to file a murder charge against a person suspected of selling or providing fentanyl-laced drugs resulting in someone’s death. Second-degree murder charges against several suspects are pending.

The multidisciplinary committee will include representatives from the county’s Behavioral Health, Emergency Management, Probation, Public Health and Public Social Service departments, as well as the Sheriff and District Attorney’s offices. In addition to developing an educational campaign, the committee will review current practice regarding the use of naloxone — a medicine that can be used to treat fentanyl overdose — and assess state and federal funding that can be used to combat opioid addiction in Riverside County.