Opioid Crisis Hits Close to Home
PALM SPRINGS — Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley are in the throes of addressing the opioid crisis, according to City Councilmember Christy Holstege, who is running for Assembly District 47.
“In our region, fentanyl alone has killed hundreds of our neighbors and harmed thousands of families,” Holstege told fellow councilmembers and the public during the City Council meeting on Thursday. “In the first half of 2023, there were more fentanyl-related deaths in the Coachella Valley than in any other part of Riverside County.”
With the help of Police Chief Andy Mills and Fire Chief Paul Alvarado and their facts, the foundation was in place for the City Council to unanimously approve accepting $2.9 million over the next 18 years to compensate for the impact of the opioid crisis in our communities.
“This is an incredible achievement,” Holstege said.
As for the numbers, “(In 2023) we responded to 275 calls for service for overdose, and not necessarily all of them are opioid,” Alvarado: said. “There’s a lot of different drugs that we’re out there treating people for, but over 100 times our firefighters administered lifesaving Narcan or Naloxone. And I’ll tell you, 38 of those people that we were able to speak to were unhoused, some of the most critical people out there that we’re trying to help. So, this is certainly a crisis … Responding to an overdose is one of the most devastating things a firefighter can approach. You’re not sure what’s wrong with the patient, they’re not breathing and possibly at the time, pulseless.”
Police Chief Andy Mills said, “This is a crisis in our nation and I’m so thankful that the Council did apply and join the lawsuit because if anybody else killed 170,000 Americans … There are very few days that we are not seizing copious amounts of fentanyl, methamphetamine from people. And along with that comes guns and violence. On one traffic stop, officers seized 375,000 fentanyl pills. You can imagine what that could do to a community.”
Mills said DEA officers who are attached to that unit, who set that up, told him that 40% of those pills had potentially a lethal dose.
“So, it’s very uncontrolled and the result on the street is we know of at least 20 unhoused individuals this year who passed away in the elements, and many of those were drug overdoses as the Fire Chief mentioned,” Mills said. “We also have another 300,000 in the grant we just got, set aside for rehabilitation and working with people who have been arrested for theft to get them into programs. We’re both doing the proactive and reactive sides of this, and we really want to make (this) a high priority because people are dying and it’s not just homeless individuals. I want to add, it’s also kids who think that they are snorting cocaine and they’re snorting pure fentanyl. It is family members who have it laced into their marijuana. So, there’s a variety of ways that people are dying, and we just need to make sure that this becomes a very important process.”
The money might be used for the Rehabilitation Re-Entry Program, the Substance Misuse Harm Reduction Program, and the Rental Assistance Program.
The Rehabilitation Re-Entry Program assists individuals who are at risk of having to leave addiction rehabilitation programs due to lack of funding.
The Substance Misuse Harm Reduction Program would make Narcan (Naloxone) and other harm reduction items available to qualified health and social services providers.
The tenant-based rental assistance program that was started at the end of last year.
Mayor Jeff Bernstein said the City Council would leave it to staff to come up with the best use of the money and do what it can to leverage it.
- Christy Holstege: Christy Holstege
- Andrew Mills: City of Palm Springs
- Opioids: Shutterstock