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Imperial County Supervisors Hear Presentation About Drug Abuse in Imperial Valley

-Editorial

As a border community, exposure to fentanyl and other dangerous drugs is a hand but there is always help available.  Imperial County Board of Supervisors analyzed a presentation regarding the state opioid abuse locally that had been on the rise for the last few years during their April 25 meeting. 

Opioid overdose is a major public health problem contributing to overdose deaths among those who use or misuse illicit and prescription drugs. Deaths by overdose involving opioids, including prescription opioids, heroin, and synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, have significantly increased in the last three decades. 

In 2020, it was estimated that opioids killed nearly 69,000 people in the United States and 82% of those deaths involved synthetic opioids. 

The Imperial County Behavioral Health Services and Imperial County Sheriff’s Office along with local agencies have established systems and resources to provide outreach and education to partner agencies and the community to increase awareness and decrease discrimination related to substance use, and provide access to a comprehensive service delivery system to the community.

In 2020, the population mostly affected by psychostimulant-stimulant overdose deaths was in the cities of Brawley, Calipatria, Westmorland, and Niland. 

The population affected most by amphetamine-related overdose emergency department visits resided in the cities of El Centro, Calipatria, Holtville, Calexico, Imperial, and Brawley. 

The population mostly affected by opioid-related overdose deaths resided in the cities of Westmorland, Heber, Calipatria, Heber, Brawley, El Centro, and Thermal. 

Fentanyl in Imperial County

Of the 328 United States ports of entry, more fentanyl has been seized by law enforcement officials in San Diego and Imperial County than anywhere else in the nation, making Imperial County one of the hot zones for fentanyl trafficking in the U.S 

In Imperial County, seizures of fentanyl increased by 272% from 2019 to 2022. 

Initially, drug trafficking organizations smuggled relatively small loads of fentanyl co-mingled with larger loads of other narcotics such as methamphetamine and cocaine. 

“We have seen a shift in these trends to significantly larger loads of fentanyl pills, known as, “M-30’s”, and fentanyl powder,” Imperial County Under Sheriff Bobby Benavides said. 

Based on the Imperial County Sheriff’s Officer Coroner’s Division data, 2020 was one of the highest years with 86 overdose deaths. 33 were fentanyl-related, representing 38% of all drug overdose deaths that year. 

In 2021, Imperial County saw a decrease in fentanyl-related overdose deaths with 17 and even a further reduction in 2022 with 13. 

Imperial County Sheriff’s Office-Employee and Community Protection 

The Sheriff’s office provides fentanyl processing kits to safely process seized fentanyl. Internal processes have been developed for medical aid response, which includes the administration of Naloxone. 

All employees are issued Naloxone, which can be administered to staff and the public during emergency exposure situations or suspected opioid overdose. 

In July 2018, the Imperial County Health Department became a drug Medi-Cal Organized Delivery System which allowed for the expansion of Medicaid-covered substance use disorder system treatment service in Imperial County. 

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