Santa Barbara, Calif. – On Wednesday, May 18, 2022, Sheriff Brown and Santa Barbara County community leaders announced the launch of Project Opioid Santa Barbara County. This regional overdose initiative is aimed at promoting high level advocacy in an effort to transform and save the greatest number of lives in the communities of Santa Barbara County.
Sheriff Brown opened the press conference by introducing Santa Barbara County as the first in California to initiate Project Opioid and introduced a report title “The Changing Overdose Crisis in California: A Community Needs Assessment of Santa Barbara County” that can be found on the Sheriff’s Office website. Sheriff Brown outlined the history of the opioid epidemic that began in the 1990’s with the over-prescription of opioid medications, followed by stricter laws on prescription drugs that caused opioid addicts to seek out street level illicit drugs to replace over-prescribed medications, followed by the current was that began 2013 with rise in synthetic opioids. At the forefront of those synthetic drugs is fentanyl, a drug 80-100 time more powerful than morphine. Sheriff Brown shared startling statistics on opioid death across the nation, as well as local statistic that show that show an increase in overdose deaths over the past five years. He highlighted that while overdose deaths are highest amongst whites, deaths in the Hispanic community increasing at a higher rate. Sheriff Brown then introduced Dr. Kendall Cortelyou the Director of Data, Analytics, and Strategy with Project Opioid, a non-profit organization committed to empowering the business and faith community to make a difference in the opioid crisis.
Dr. Cortelyou shared that fentanyl has infiltrated the drug supply and has changed the game with regard to who is dying and how quickly they are dying. Fentanyl being pressed into pills that look like a variety of routine prescription medications as well as being added into cocaine. She highlighted that it is important for the community to understand that drugs may or may not be what they are intending on taking.
Next, Sheriff Brown introduced community leaders and Project Opioid Santa Barbara partners including Janelle Osborne, City of Lompoc Mayor; Dr. Scott Whiteley, CADA Executive Director; John Doyle, Santa Barbara Department of Behavioral Wellness; Kristin Flickinger, Executive Director Pacific Pride; Pastor Bernie Federman, Lompoc Foursquare Church; Dr Paul Erickson, Cottage Hospital; John Savernoch, Assistant District Attorney, Chief Joseph Mariani, Lompoc Police; and Retired Superior Court Judge Rogelio Flores.
Sheriff Brown closed the press conference by outlining the future of Project Opioid Santa Barbara County including increased availability of the overdose reversal drug naloxone at Sheriff’s substations. There will be an educational campaign that focuses on the dangers of fentanyl. Project Opioid partners plan to coordinate narcotics enforcement to target dealers who sell fentanyl in our communities. Project Opioid will work to enhance and expand essential treatment programs and follow up with victims of near-fatal overdoses and ensure that they are offered services. Finally, Project Opioid partners will work diligently to reduce the stigma of addiction and send the message that collectively, we are deeply concerned for those who are abusing drugs in our community.
A full-length video of the press conference is available on the Sheriff’s Office YouTube channel.