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Local officials stepping up in opioid epidemic

Posted at 11:38 PM, Jun 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-03 02:38:33-04

Since 19-99 the number of overdose deaths in the u-s caused by opioids has climbed to more than 165 thousand people.

And with toxicology tests showing that pop-star prince died from an accidental opioid overdose -- the nationwide problem is getting more attention.

Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez says the reason for use can come out of nowhere.

“They do it and they get in some kind of car accident, a back injury at work. Very everyday common ailments,” said Perez.

And for those not careful enough, addiction can come from trying to find relief.

“The addiction happens fast and quickly we see a move to street drugs. Which we know come in forms and potency that a consumer just does not know,” said Perez.

Back in February, 23ABC spoke with Doug Jauch and Donny Youngblood of the Kern County Sheriff's Office about nasal naloxone, a new way deputies were being trained to save an individual who overdosed on opioids.

“In Kern County we see on average about 40 deaths due to opioid overdoses per year, and one death is way too many,” said Jauch.

“The intent of equipping the deputies with Narcan, like AED's, is to save lives and that's what we do, that's our role,” said Youngblood.

And now as more people are becoming aware of the epidemic, Perez said communication on all levels is important.

A major reason why she is serving on a nationwide task force.

“As we come up with local implementation strategies, it's so critical that we're on the same page. That we're sharing data and that we understand that this is not something we can ignore,” said Perez.

According to Congressman Kevin McCarthy over the past six years more than 160 people have been sent to the emergency room for opioid overdoses in Kern County.

Saying that’s what motivated him to pass several bills in the house, all of them aimed at helping local law enforcement crack down on the sale of pills on the streets.

“It's past the House. The Senate has a version as well and we're right now inside a conference, which I'm appointed to head up,” said McCarthy.

“This is a major crisis that is penetrated American families all across this country. And we have to talk about it, that's the first step,” said Perez.

Perez also said earlier that town hall meetings will begin once they can set up and organize ways to tackle this problem on a local level.