Over 130 people die from opioid overdoses in the United States daily, according to the National Institute for Drug Abuse. In OC, between 2011 and 2015, 1,207 people died from an opioid overdose, according to the OC Health Care Agency. Cities in OC’s southern, costal, and central regions saw a consistent rise in fatalities during that time, a 20 percent increase in central cities, and a 21 percent increase in southern cities. Some experts expect to see more deaths in 2018 than any previous year.
With the problem mounting, a handful of local heroes have come forward. Among them are Amy Dunkle of the Solace Foundation, Dr. Evan Fewsmith, and Tom Buckley of Pacific Solstice Behavioral Health. Community awareness, treatment, and unfettered access to the opiate overdose reversal drug naloxone, are their foremost goals.
This Saturday, February 2, the Solace Foundation and Pacific Solstice are hosting a free community resource event at the Laguna Hills Community Center from 12 to 5 pm called Removing The Barriers. The event will include a panel of speakers, free counseling services and harm reduction supplies, free food, and a free tutorial on administering naloxone.
“The demonization is what’s killing people,” Dunkle told OC Weekly. Dunkle, who began distributing free naloxone following her son’s death from a heroin overdose, says talking openly is the best cure for stigmatization. Meeting addicts where they are, not demonizing them, but instead treating them, Dunkle says, helps turn the tide of addiction by opening up addicts minds to the possibility of recovery.
Papa Jim Nowell, father of Sublime frontman Bradley Nowell and co–founder of The Nowell Foundation. Along with Todd Z-Man Zalkins, Nowell will be speaking about the loss of Bradley to a heroin overdose, and their advocacy work for addicts.
Dr. David Deyhimy founder of My MAT Clinic OC, a medication assisted treatment option for opioid addicts
Dr. Nicole Quick, MD, MPH, Deputy Health Officer for the OC Health Care Agency
Dela Lissi Kerr, Prevention Specialist for the OC Health Care Agency
Andrew Martin of Behavior Health Association Providers
Pete Nielsen of the California Consortium of Addiction Programs and Professionals
21 nonprofits, including the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), will be in attendance. Harm reduction supplies, free consultation with mental health professionals, free assessments with drug and alcohol counselors, free support groups and 12 step meetings, and free naloxone (Narcan) will be available for all present.
“It’s all about the dialogue,” Dunkle says, and this event is a small step to reducing overdose deaths in OC, and addressing our drug epidemic as a whole.
Laguna Hills Community Center
25555 Alicia Parkway
Laguna Hills, 92653