Ramona Sheriff’s deputies have begun handing out naloxone kits at the substation and when responding to calls to equip people with the medication that can counteract an opioid overdose.
The free kits are available to adults from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays at the Ramona Sheriff’s substation, 1424 Montecito Road.
Ramona Sheriff’s Lt. Daniel Vengler said naloxone supplies have been available since Dec. 23. The medicine is used to counteract the effects of an opioid such as fentanyl, heroin or oxycodone and can be effective if used timely in case of an overdose, he said.
“We have been handing them out to people that we know use illicit drugs and to people we know to hang around with people who use illicit drugs,” Vengler said.
The idea is to have naloxone on hand before a medical emergency occurs, Vengler said.
“My hope is that the person that’s struggling with drug addiction gets help before the damage becomes irreversible,” he said. “My message to anyone who has a family member, co-worker or neighbor who is using illicit drugs is to keep offering help and don’t give up on them. Eventually they may take you up on those offers to get help and eventually get drug free.”
Naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan, is a needle-free medication sprayed into a person’s nose that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. Deputies typically administer the medicine after an opioid slows a person’s heart rate and impairs their breathing, Vengler said.
In 2021, Ramona deputies administered 13 doses of naloxone on seven incidents, according to Vengler. Deputies also responded to 23 overdose calls in 2021 and there were two deaths in Ramona that year that were attributed to fentanyl.
Last year through June, Ramona deputies administered eight doses of naloxone in five incidents, and two deaths were attributed to drug overdoses.
Countywide in 2021, there were 814 fentanyl overdose deaths, up from 84 in 2017, according to the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Fentanyl can be deadly in small doses. It is often mixed with other drugs, and individuals can ingest it unknowingly, officials say.
Vengler said sometimes people think they are using heroin, cocaine or methamphetamine but fentanyl may be mixed in with it. He said illicit drugs are the problem, not legally prescribed medications.
The naloxone kits being distributed by the Sheriff’s Department countywide, and by county Parks and Recreation in addition to police departments in Chula Vista and National City include two doses of naloxone. They come with an educational brochure in English and Spanish with a QR code for an instructional video.
“We want to make sure we get the kits distributed to everyone throughout the county who feels they have a need for them and we will keep getting them replenished if we run out,” Vengler said.
The naloxone distributed through the county’s distribution program is provided for by California’s Department of Health Care Services Naloxone Distribution Project, said Cassie Klapp, group communications officer for the county Health and Human Services Agency
All county Health and Human Services Agency public health centers have distributed free naloxone kits to communities since 2021, Klapp said.
“Community naloxone access through our law enforcement partners expands access and furthers the county’s overarching goal to saturate the community with naloxone,” she said. “The sooner someone experiencing an overdose is administered naloxone, the greater the chances of survival. Anyone can carry naloxone, give it to someone experiencing an overdose, and potentially save a life.”
Naloxone will be distributed at a Love Your Heart Community Fair on Saturday, Feb. 25. The event presented by Live Well San Diego will be held from noon to 3 p.m. at Ramona Community Library, 1275 Main St.
Other activities planned at the fair include blood pressure checks, COVID-19 and flu vaccines, food distribution and a Ramona H.E.A.R.T. Murals walk.
Additional resources for naloxone distribution were discussed during the Jan. 12 Ramona Community Planning Group meeting. Planning Group members considered placing a naloxone vending machine at a public location in Ramona.
However, objections were raised about having a vending machine at the Ramona Library, which is visited by children and families, or placing it at Ramona fire departments that are not staffed during emergency call responses.
The motion for installing a naloxone vending machine failed with six Planning Group members in favor and five against.
“I think it’s a good idea, but more thought needs to be put into it,” Planning Group member Paul Stykel said.