Marin educators, health officials, students and law enforcement professionals are planning a public forum next week on a deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl spread.
“We are confident that our community will rise up to answer the call,” said Mike Grant, an organizer with the Marin County Office of Education. “We can take concrete steps to implement the specific actions our students are asking for.”
California Department of Public Health Overdose dashboard says there were 33 opioid-related deaths, or 14.1 per 100,000 population, in Marin in 2020. That figure was up from 15 opioid-related deaths in 2017. The state did not yet released data for 2021.
Of the 33 opioid-related deaths in Marin in 2020, two-thirds were attributed to fentanyl, according to the department. Of the 15 opioid-related deaths in 2017, a third were attributed to fentanyl.
In a related statistic, the number of suspected non-fatal opioid-related overdoses in Marin rose from 203 in 2019 to 226 last year, according to county spokeswoman Laine Hendricks.
In January, the RxSafe Marin Naloxone Team and the Marin County Office of Education secured 277 boxes of Narcan — or naloxone — for all public middle and high schools in Marin. Narcan is an emergency medication that can quickly reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.
Last year, the group installed Narcan dispensers at the Marin County Jail and the County Social Services campus at 120 N. Redwood Drive in San Rafael. The county has distributed more than 700 free Narcan kits from the machines, according to RxSafe Marin, a group founded by community activists in 2014.
The online forum is scheduled for March 29 at 6 p.m. It will feature a panel of five Marin students: Henry Pratt of Archie Williams High School; Jessica Mendieta of Novato High School; Keely Ganong and Taylor Elliott of Redwood High School; and Talia Harter of San Rafael High School.
The list of speakers also includes Mark Dale of RxSafe Marin and Wade Shannon, US Drug Enforcement Agency special agent in charge of the San Francisco field division.
Pratt, Elliott and Ganong addressed members of the Marin Schools-Law Enforcement Partnership on January 19. They referred to articles they published in their respective student newspapers, the redwood bark and field. For both articles, the students interviewed Marin mothers who had lost children to drug overdoses, including fentanyl poisoning.
“I’m not sure a lot of the kids in my school understand how widespread this problem is,” Pratt said.
The public forum is expected to lead to “expanded education for students and parents, guest speakers, the provision of Narcan and training to the school community and increased support for mental health and wellbeing,” said Mary Jane Burke, Superintendent of Marin Schools.
“We know that the ‘all on deck’ approach we’ve taken to fight COVID-19 will serve our community on this issue,” Burke said.
Information about participating in the forum is available at bit.ly/3Nc8wso.