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County, State and Federal leaders discuss new ways to battle fentanyl crisis in San Diego

Among the ideas discussed include getting naloxone into schools, 'fentanyl-tracing' and overdose mapping.

SAN DIEGO — The fentanyl crisis took center stage in Kearny Mesa Friday as leaders from all levels of government came together for a 2-hour roundtable discussion to talk about how to address the growing problem.

“We’re here to find out today from the experts, the boots on the ground, what it is we in government can do, what programs, how can we direct money, how can we direct education, what can we do to stop this?” said San Diego County Supervisor Jim Desmond.

In the last three years the number of fentanyl related overdose deaths has skyrocketed in San Diego. According to the county, in 2019 there were 151 deaths. In 2021, there were more than 800.

According to Desmond, the medical examiner's office is overwhelmed with the number of overdose deaths, and its caused a backlog in cases. He said families are waiting weeks to find out what caused their loved one's death.

District Attorney Summer Stephan said just this week a 32-year-old woman died of a fentanyl overdose.

“I’m hoping we can move to really urgent action,” said Stephan. “I’m very tired and very sad. Every day I talk to parents who lost kids. Just two days ago that happened again, it’s devastating.”

She believes one thing that would help make an impact is strengthening laws punishing dealers.

“We don’t have the laws on our side. In fact, one more tool was taken away from us, where if there’s great bodily injury that results in death or injury we used to be able to get an enhancement. Now it’s an uphill battle based on the new laws,” she said.

Stephan said the majority of drugs on the street are laced with fentanyl and recreational drug users are dying.

“People make mistakes. People shouldn’t die because of a mistake,” she added.

In January, the county recently started giving out naloxone, the drug that reverses an overdose, for free to anyone who needs it.

Congressman Darrel Issa agreed saving lives is the bottom line. However, he said there also needs to be a focus on preventing drugs from entering our country in the first place.

“We're looking at where we can work together better,” said Congressman Issa. “We have problems at the border that are significant and we can all debate about people coming over the border, but unfortunately, an open border means that our border patrol agents, our ICE, our DEA, are less effective in interdicting those drugs and that's one of the areas we want to concentrate on.”

He said we also need to strengthen our partnerships with other countries like Mexico.

County Supervisor Desmond tells CBS 8 some of the other ideas included 'fentanyl tracing' similar to COVID-19 tracing, in an attempt to find out who is supplying the deadly drug.

He said another suggestion was putting out 'overdose maps.'

"If a certain area of the county, all of a sudden there's a spike in overdoses, maybe we can do some tracing to that effect to say, 'Here's where it is,' and we can go and maybe find out where that came from and what caused that particular spike," he said.

Watch CBS 8's mini-documentary on fentanyl crisis


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