Senator Cortese Introduces Bill to Tackle Youth Fentanyl Crisis

On the first day of Legislative Session, State Senator Dave Cortese (D-San Jose) introduced legislation to prevent opioid and fentanyl overdoses and death among California’s youth.

Senator Bill (SB) 10 will expand statewide prevention and education efforts to combat the skyrocketing overdoses and fentanyl-related deaths that have plagued youth statewide.

Senator Dave Cortese says, “We have a crisis of fentanyl poisoning and death among our youth that we must meet with urgency and the sweeping action it requires. I am committed to working with our educational partners and community to reverse the alarming rise in fentanyl overdoses and deaths. Through universal preventative measures, we can save lives.”

Under the leadership of Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez, the Santa Clara County Fentanyl Working Group works to distribute widespread information on the impact of fentanyl in partnership with the Santa Clara County Office of Education, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, Santa Clara County Behavioral Health Services, and the Santa Clara County Opioid Overdose Prevention Project. Since its development last spring, this working group has already saved the lives of two students in San Jose in one month.

This model inspired SB 10, says Senator Cortese, who believes that any solution to this crisis must include universal preventative measures that will result in lifesaving outcomes for our youth.

Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez says, “There is such a sense of urgency to the fentanyl crisis that I commend Senator Cortese for using Santa Clara County’s Fentanyl Working Group as the prototype for a statewide response to fentanyl poisoning deaths. When I established the Fentanyl Working Group in early 2022 with Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen, we hit the ground running. Within a few months we have been able to get Narcan into most high schools, held meetings with parents and students and developed a communications campaign to connect with teens and young adults who are buying pills online not knowing they are laced with fentanyl.”

Santa Clara County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Mary Ann Dewan says, "The Santa Clara County Office of Education is proud to sponsor this important legislation which will help spread awareness of the dangers of fentanyl and establish better access to life saving medication. Narcan kits and training provided to school staff in Santa Clara County over the last few months have already been successfully used to save students' lives."

SB 10 seeks to provide necessary intervention, increase accessibility to resources and provide valuable education and training services to protect our youth from fentanyl poising and overdoses.

The bill will include:

·      Requiring local education agencies (school districts, county offices of education, and charter schools) to embed opioid overdose prevention and treatment in their School Safety Plans, including synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl; and

·      Distributing Opioid Antagonist Training & School Resource Guides to all local education agencies regarding the emergency use of opioid antagonists, such as naloxone, on school campuses; and

·      Distributing safety advice to families regarding opioid overdose prevention including through student orientation materials and through posting online information; and

·      Establishing a State Working Group on Fentanyl Overdose/Abuse Prevention focused on public education, awareness, prevention and minimizing overdoses; and

·      Setting up a framework to incentivize County Working Groups on Fentanyl Overdose/Abuse Prevention like the successful model in Santa Clara County through a new state grant program.

As reported recently by The Mercury News, fentanyl was responsible for an astounding one in five youth deaths (ages 15-to-24) in California last year. In one year alone (2019-2020), fentanyl overdoses among youth nearly doubled and we have seen that trend continue to increase.

Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids were responsible for more than 105,000 deaths in America from October 2020 to October 2021, with 69,000 deaths being caused by fentanyl. Fentanyl, in particular, is responsible for more deaths among youth than all other drugs combined.