Courtesy of San Benito County Public Health Services:
One year ago, a small group of concerned individuals from various backgrounds and occupations came together to address the increase of opioid use and misuse in San Benito County. This group eventually formed the San Benito County Opioid Task Force and has become a leading force in addressing opioid use and misuse within our county.
This Task Force includes representatives from law enforcement, Behavioral Health, Public Health, Emergency Medical Services, local government, education, health care providers, pharmacists, Community Food Bank and community members, among others. Over the last year, the Opioid Task Force has grown impressively to almost 50 members representing over 20 agencies.
As the Task Force marks its first year with many noteworthy milestones, members continue to work diligently to raise awareness of this tragic epidemic. Such milestones include:
- Developing an informational and resource-rich website specific to our community—to be launched later this month,
- Being one of several counties accepted into the California Opioid Safety Network Accelerator Program, which provides our Task Force expert coaching, technical assistance and networking opportunities to help strengthen impact within our community, and
- Providing numerous opioid educational presentations to parents and school staff, public and private organizations and policy makers, as well as the general population.
“What may be considered the biggest success of the Task Force is our ability to provide naloxone training and distribution”, stated Dr. Gail Newel, Health Officer for San Benito County and Task Force Chair. “Naloxone is the medication used to reverse opioid overdose. It is easy to use, and can be administered by anyone, as a Good Samaritan. Naloxone usually works to reverse an overdose within a couple of minutes, and lasts anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes, providing much needed time to obtain medical help.” The Task Force has trained numerous county and community-based agencies on how to administer naloxone and has distributed doses to those agencies through a grant from the California Department of Public Health.
Task Force members also agree that reducing opioid misuse includes proper disposal of unused or expired opioid medications. To address this issue the Task Force has partnered with San Benito County Integrated Waste Management and local pharmacies to create more safe disposal options as well as inform the public about how to utilize them.
The Task Force asks the public to be aware that unused or expired medications kept at home, thrown in the trash or flushed down the drain or toilet are a public safety issue, leading to accidental poisoning, overdose, and abuse. Medications kept at home or thrown in the trash can be stolen, abused or illegally sold. If thrown in the trash, they will contaminate our landfill and eventually our water supply. Medications should not be flushed down the drain or toilet due to contamination of our water supply.
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Safe prescribing efforts are also underway in San Benito County. The Task Force is working with local prescribers and pharmacists to establish safer prescribing practices and policies. Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital has instituted new prescribing policies that minimize the potential for opiate misuse. The San Benito County Medical Society is partnering with the Opioid Task Force to sponsor an educational event on safe prescribing practices, to be held next month.
As San Benito County Opioid Task Force completes its first year, members remain committed to work together to create a safer San Benito community.
If you would like more information on the San Benito County Opioid Task Force, please call San Benito County Public Health Services at (831) 637-5367 or go to San Benito County Opioid Task Force Website at: sbcopioidtaskforce.org OR sbcopioidtaskforce.wixsite.com/sbcotf.