The opioid epidemic claimed about 49,068 lives in 2017. Roughly 1,882 of those deaths occurred in California alone. Some may think that this problem can’t affect pristine communities like those of Orange County. In fact, Orange County’s wealthiest cities are experiencing the worst of the opioid crisis. Emergency room visits here in Mission Viejo have nearly doubled in recent years—totaling 64 opioid-related visits in 2015 (the most recent year for which there is data). We must work to fight this epidemic by increasing access to addiction resources, improving education to prevent future addiction, and increasing access to life-saving emergency resources.
“Compassionate action is the best choice we have as we build the evidence for what works,” Ms. Harrison writes in the Conclusion of her recent opioid study.
Second, local governments must undertake efforts aimed at preventing future instances of addiction through public education campaigns, community-based youth programs, and stigma reduction campaigns. Educational materials have been shown to be very effective in preventing addiction by teaching young people about the risks and consequences of opioid addiction. Starting more community-based youth programs have also been shown to be very effective in preventing addiction. Additionally, studies have also shown that reducing stigma associated with substance abuse disorders makes treatment and prevention efforts much more effective. There are many so prevention measures that local governments can implement, and local governments must explore all of them to best met the needs of their particular community.
Third, local governments can also work to create emergency overdose resources for their communities. Naloxone is an antidote to opioid overdose that is quite safe, and highly effective when timely administered, even by lay people. Programs that give opioid users or their families naloxone to take home (and education on how to administer it) have been found to reduce overdose mortality rates, with the naloxone itself having very low rates of adverse effects. This of course would be a last resort, but if there are steps that our communities can be taking to save lives then such steps must be taken.
Local governments across the country have so many ways of using their power to help fight the opioid epidemic. However, we can all be doing more to help keep our communities safe and healthy. From simply starting education and awareness campaigns, to long-term public-private partnerships, there is a lot that can be done to help end the opioid epidemic.