By Paul Campa
The growing opioid epidemic hits friction in North County with a bill proposition from Escondido Representative Marie Waldron.
The opioid epidemic spreads across the United States rapidly, especially in our local community. At a North County drug bust, over 50 criminals involved in heroin trafficking were arrested this past spring. In response, California lawmakers sat down to discuss solutions. One of the propositions was the Heroin and Opioid Public Education, or HOPE, Act.
Introduced by local representative Marie Waldron of District 75, the bill was first drafted in her office just blocks away from Maple Street Plaza. It aims to curb the number of deaths caused by prescription opioids and their less expensive counterpart– heroin. The law would require the State Health Department to develop and oversee “a comprehensive multicultural public education program to describe the effects and warning signs of heroin use and Opioid medication abuse to assist the public in identifying when help is needed and the pathways that are available for individuals seeking help.” Since its January introduction, the bill has been amended to include Naloxone grant funding. Nalaxone, or Narcan, is a lifesaving treatment that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. The bill was read by the Senates Committee on RLS just a few weeks ago and is making its way to being passed.
Lawmakers know the situation is dire as they face a battle on two fronts: The first is that prescription opioids are being scrutinized for their over-prescription by doctors and the second is a lack of education around the drugs which has led to a number of accidental overdoses. The solution for the latter is increased education and awareness. However, the highly addictive substance is also being abused in the form of illegal heroin.
This is a fight that also crosses into our southern borders. Mexican drug cartels push the drugs for lucrative amounts of money up into the United States. To get an accurate reading on these numbers, a team of students visited California Border Patrol and spoke with the officers who guard the San Diego Sector. Their data reflects how desperate the situation is. In 2007, 0.4 oz of heroin were seized by agents. In 2016, less than a decade later, almost 4,000 oz were captured. This significant rise in the illegal trafficking is causing action in California. The problem is complex, and California lawmakers hope to address the dangers of prescription opioids through better forms of public education and a severe crackdown on the policing of heroin traffic.
Escondido has taken concrete steps to fight the crisis. 150 law enforcement officers made over 50 affects earlier in March, devastating Tijuana’s Sinaloa Cartel. This group sells heroin in North County through its now-hampered network of San Diego distributors. The problem continues to grow, but plans proposed by Escondido’s representatives have the potential to spread awareness and save lives in our community.