Board of Supervisors Meeting – June 6, 2023
A presentation by the County Opioid Abuse Suppression Taskforce (COAST) on the multi-agency effort to combat the opioid crisis in Ventura County was given to the Board of Supervisors on June 6th. County Behavioral Health Director Scot Gillman, and Substance Use Services Manager Dan Hicks, laid out the history of the heroin, opioid and now, fentanyl crisis in our county, as well as the decades long effort by Behavioral Health Department to address them.
It was a united front by all COAST Leads: Public Health’s Associate Public Health Officer, Dr. Uldine Castel, Medical Examiner Dr. Christopher Young, Assistant Sheriff Victor Fazio and District Attorney Erik Nasarenko, on what their individual offices are doing toward this effort as well as the power of the combined efforts by COAST. The Board members had numerous questions and lauded the COAST Leads for all being done in our county around this ongoing health and law enforcement crisis in Ventura County, as well as the country.
Facing Down Fentanyl
See highlights from the presentation to the Ventura County Board of Supervisors on June 6, 2023:
Real Talk: Fake Pills, 100% Danger
National Fentanyl Awareness Day was recognized with numerous events to different demographics in the county. The Ventura County Office of Education teamed up with Ventura County Behavioral Health and invited all county high schools to participate in National Fentanyl Awareness Day on May 9.
The Behavioral Health Department prepared a 32-minute video presentation that spoke directly to youth in our county in a first-ever Youth Summit on this topic. “Real Talk: Fake Pills, 100% Danger,” was made available to every high school in Ventura County, and by the end of the week (May 12) had over 1,300 downloads by school districts and parents. This is the first in what will be an annual event to educate students in the dangers of illicit opioids and fentanyl.
See the presentation below:
Prescribers Care May 9th Event
Continuing with the Prescribers Care Discussion Series in 2023, Ventura County Behavioral Health provided education and resources to Behavioral Health clinical staff, including therapists and physicians, during a morning presentation that also shared information about the growing fentanyl problem in our county.
It was followed by a lunchtime presentation that was championed by our own Dr. Joseph Vlaskovitz, a psychiatrist and director of the Behavioral Health Department’s Substance Use Treatment Services, again targeted to physicians throughout the county. In the evening, a special panel presentation at Las Posas Country Club, which featured Medical Examiner Dr. Christopher Young, VCMC’s Addiction Specialist Dr. Tipu Kahn, VCSO’s Sergeant John Hajducko and Addiction Specialist Dr. Matthew Lamon, on the very real effects of the fentanyl crisis they see in their work.
Learn more about Prescribes Care →
National Fentanyl Awareness Day is May 9.
National Fentanyl Awareness Day is May 9. Raising awareness about an urgent national problem: people are dying at alarming rates due to illicit fentanyl, a dangerous synthetic opioid. Get the facts and share them widely. Learn about our efforts to raise awareness and see our campaigns at www.venturacountyresponds.org and www.fentanylventuracounty.org. View more resources www.fentanylawarenessday.org.
National Fentanyl Awareness Day May 10, 2022
The first ever National Fentanyl Awareness Day launches tomorrow, Tuesday, May 10, 2022. The purpose is to raise public awareness about the growing fentanyl public health crisis. People are dying at alarming rates due to illegally made fentanyl, a dangerous synthetic opioid. Founded by parents who have lost loved ones to the drug overdose epidemic, National Fentanyl Awareness Day is supported by a group of subject matter experts, corporations, nonprofits, schools, families, and elected officials who are coming together to amplify the issue via social media. The date was purposely set during Mental Health Awareness Month to amplify the warning message about self-medication at a time when counterfeit pills have flooded the illicit drug market. The goal is to leverage as many organizations and communication channels as possible to reach the most vulnerable demographics.
By Sheila Murphy, COAST Administrator
In October 2018, the Ventura County Behavioral Health Department was notified that its application for the Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Site-based Program, federal funding provided by the U.S. Department of Justice to combat opioid misuse, had been granted. The amount of the award was $935,401, and just under the $1 million maximum. The three-year grant was the largest award of two California county grants in the category.
The COAST Program – County Opioid Abuse Suppression Taskforce – has worked to address opioid abuse in Ventura County exclusively during the past three years, though Behavioral Health has been working tirelessly on this effort when the Ventura County Rx Abuse & Heroin Workgroup was launched in early 2012 to tackle the newly-identified opioid crisis.
COAST has worked closely with our stakeholders – the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office, Ventura County Medical Examiner’s Office, Ventura County Public Health and Ventura County EMS. With the creation of a Data Management Coordinator position earlier this year, COAST has been taking a deep dive on analyzing trends and targeted efforts to reduce local impacts.
The U.S. Department of Justice grant funding of COAST ended in October 2021, but the work, even more important during the past two years, continues, as a stand-alone program under the Substance Use Services division of Behavioral Health. The COAST Opioid Data Dashboard was developed to inform the public on important data such as opioid-related deaths over a five-year period (2016-2020), lives saved with naloxone (2014-2019), and prescriptions for opioids in the year 2018, among others. The Dashboard will be updated annually.
The emergence of fentanyl as the leading cause of overdose deaths, both in Ventura County and nationally, has taken the work of COAST to greater collaboration with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office. We will continue to look for innovative ways to educate and inform residents of our county about the very real dangers of illicit drugs, and how they can keep themselves and their families safe and healthy. To learn more, www.coastventuracounty.org.
COAST Newsletter - October 2021
Every quarter we send out COAST Newsletters to keep you informed about our COAST grant efforts to address the Opioid crisis in Ventura County. Through the COAST grant, Ventura County agencies are working together to reduce illicit opioid supply, decrease opioid demand, and save lives. By sharing and comparing data, we can leverage information, analyze trends, and target resources to respond to this evolving public health crisis. In this newsletter, see the Interview with Dr. Christopher Young, MD, Ventura County Medical Examiner.
COAST Newsletter - April 2021
Every quarter we send out COAST Newsletters to keep you informed about our COAST grant efforts to address the Opioid crisis in Ventura County. Through the COAST grant, Ventura County agencies are working together to reduce illicit opioid supply, decrease opioid demand, and save lives. By sharing and comparing data, we can leverage information, analyze trends, and target resources to respond to this evolving public health crisis. See the April 2021 Newsletter and learn about recent efforts being made by our team.
Interview with Brad Friday, COAST Grant
Today we are talking with Brad Friday, Implementation Coordinator for the County Opioid Abuse Suppression Taskforce (COAST) Grant, Ventura County Behavioral Health, Substance Use Services - Prevention.
Hi Brad. Please describe your work with the COAST grant.
Brad: My work with COAST includes collection, dissemination, and publishing of pertinent County Opioid-related data via Public and Internal Dashboards, as well liaising between the requirements of the grant and our key stakeholders/partners.
How did you get interested in the field of prevention?
Brad: While serving as an Active-Duty Hospital Corpsman in the Navy, I was assigned to Marine Corps ground forces as a Field Medic. The prevention bug first bit while preparing/educating Marines prior to operational deployments rather than being strictly reactionary. After that tour I became a “Preventive Medicine Technician” within Navy Medicine which specialized in overall safety, health, and wellness of deployable forces within the Navy and Marine Corps.
What is your passion for working in the community?
Brad: It’s validating to contribute toward providing our diverse population a safe place to live and grow despite the challenges we face. This only happens by being at the ground level and interacting with the community along with our multi-agency partners who are working hard to achieve this mutual goal. My passion is to keep these threads tied together, to enhance these relationships and to maintain a unified front in suppressing the opioid crisis.
What are the areas that you hope to make changes in?
Brad: My goal in working within the COAST Project is to act as a conduit toward reducing opiate abuse, overdoses and overdose deaths via immediate communication of real-time data. This communication will then guide prevention, health care, and community leaders who join us in tackling the opioid crisis toward making more informed decisions.
Tell us one thing about you that helps us get to know you better?
Brad: I am originally from the Midwest but felt deeply connected to Ventura County upon being stationed in Port Hueneme some 20 years ago. While my career took me out of the county for a while, the attachment to this area never left. I’m not only happy that I get to live in this amazing area with so much to offer; I’m also increasingly proud I’m able to serve this community in this capacity.
Thank you Brad for sharing your experience with us. Your commitment and passion is inspiring.
Opioid Data Dashboard