A Naloxone kit in 2017. The medication is used for the emergency treatment of known or suspected opioid overdose. Brand names of the drug are: Narcan, Evzio, LifEMS Naloxone, Narcan Neonatal and Narcan Prefilled. (New Brunswick/Nouveau-Brunswick via Bay City News)

The Tri County-Collaborative has received a state-funded grant to help in efforts to battle the ongoing opioid epidemic in the Central Coast region, the group announced this week in a press release. The announcement was made on May 7, which was designated Fentanyl Awareness Day by federal lawmakers this year to draw attention to the issue.

“Today, the TCC  is proud to announce it has been awarded a California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Fentanyl Overdose Prevention Grant. This multi-year grant totaling $1,280,985 over three years, provides critical funding to bolster efforts to combat the alarming increase in fentanyl-related overdoses gripping the region,” reads the May 7 release.

The TCC—which is composed of the San Benito County Opioid Task Force, SafeRx Santa Cruz County and Central Coast Overdose Prevention—is a coalition of healthcare professionals, law enforcement, community organizations and government entities working on overdose prevention in the tri-county region.

According to state data, the Central Coast region tallied 200 fentanyl-related deaths in 2023. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid and is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. Opioid-related deaths in recent years have risen due to the prevalence of the substance in counterfeit prescription pills and other illicit drugs.

Some key initiatives that will be funded by the CDPH grant include: 

  • Providing education programs in schools 
  • Supporting overdose prevention and increasing access to naloxone (NARCAN)
  • Improving local overdose data surveillance 
  • Increasing access to substance use disorder recovery services among those addicted to  fentanyl or other opioids. 

Mary White, San Benito County Public Health Pharmacist and Program Manager for the Opioid Prevention Program, said the grant funding will help ongoing efforts by San Benito, Santa Cruz and Monterey counties to impact fentanyl overdoses.

“Some of the joint objectives and activities funded by the grant include expanding education programs in schools to include designing template presentations about opioids and naloxone. [These are] tailored specifically for middle school and high schools in order to further increase awareness amongst our youth and their families,” White said in an email.

The TCC also produces the Let’s Talk booklets to help parents and students address the dangers of opioid overdoses. Additionally, community forums, social media messaging and  expanded naloxone training are part of its ongoing outreach strategy. The collaborative is also developing a tri-county data surveillance dashboard and annual report.

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