As International Overdose Awareness Day approaches on August 31, Contra Costa Health Services (CCHS) reminds everyone that we can all play a role in preventing and reducing overdose deaths in our community caused by the national opioid epidemic.
In Contra Costa, data from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) shows 52 reported deaths in 2017 were due to opioid-related overdoses, including prescription painkillers and street drugs such as heroin. The number of similar deaths reported in 2018 jumped to 81.
“Our data do not show exactly why there was an increase in overdose deaths in 2018,” said Dr. Chris Farnitano, Contra Costa County Health Officer. “But they do tell us that opioid misuse continues to be a serious problem in our community.”
To help prevent opioid overdose deaths in Contra Costa County, residents can:
• Help someone struggling with opioid addiction to find treatment – call the Contra Costa Behavioral Health Services Access Line at 800-846-1652
• Learn about naloxone (Narcan), a medicine that can treat an in-progress opioid overdose – visit cccmedscoalition.org/naloxone-availability for information
• Find out where to properly dispose of unwanted prescription medicine – see cchealth.org/safe-drug-disposal
• Get involved with prevention efforts in your community, such as the Contra Costa County Medication Education and Disposal Safety (MEDS) Coalition – learn more at cccmedscoalition.org or by calling the CCHS Alcohol & Other Drugs Program at 925-335-3313
Opioids include street drugs such as heroin, but also medicines such as fentanyl, hydrocodone (Norco) and oxycodone (OxyContin) that are used for managing pain. But they are also addictive and can be dangerous, even if used as prescribed.
Contra Costa has recently expanded access to residential substance use treatment and expanded outpatient treatment, including Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) through the Choosing Change program – learn more about Choosing Change at cchealth.org/choosing-change.
MAT services are also available in Contra Costa through BAART Programs clinics. Call the Contra Costa Behavioral Health Services Access Line for more information.
One way of helping to prevent an overdose is to carry and know how to use naloxone, an anti-overdose drug. This is especially important for family and friends of people who are struggling with opioid misuse.
Naloxone is available over the counter at many pharmacies and is increasingly emphasized as an important lifesaving medication in Contra Costa. The drug is widely available at CCHS clinics and programs, and more than a dozen county police agencies have now been approved by CCHS’s Emergency Medical Services Division to carry it.