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Select committee formed to investigate deadly fentanyl crisis in California

Parents of fentanyl victims rally in San Francisco
Parents of fentanyl victims rally in San Francisco 02:46

SAN FRANCISCO -- California will investigate the police and public health response to the deadly opioid crisis with a newly-formed bipartisan assembly committee, lawmakers announced Thursday.

The 11-person committee, introduced at a press briefing Thursday by Assemblymembers Matt Haney (D-San Francisco) and Laurie Davis (R-Laguna Niguel), said it would focus on the rapid spread of fentanyl and how to stop overdose deaths, which have totaled more than 5,500 in California this year.

Haney said one of the immediate measures the committee is looking at is having the life-saving antidote Naloxone, known by the Narcan brand, placed in schools across the state, a policy that some school districts are already implementing.

A number of drug policy experts would also form part of the Bipartisan Special Committee to Investigate Fentanyl and Opioid Deaths, including Stanford professor Keith Humphries. The former senior drug policy advisor for the Obama administration said that while more people may die from Covid this year, opioid deaths will account for a wider age range of deaths.

Illustrating the extent of the crisis in just one California county, pediatrician Dr. Lee Trope said 17 teens died from fentanyl overdoses in one year in Santa Clara County, with the youngest patient she's seen who had ingested fentanyl being 12 years old.

DEA warns "emerging trend" of colored fentanyl being used to lure youth
An image of what is known as "rainbow fentanyl" pills.  Drug Enforcement Administration

Assemblymembers on the special committee include:

Matt Haney (Chair) (D-San Francisco)
Isaac Bryan (D-Los Angeles)
Laurie Davies (R-Laguna Niguel)
Ash Kalra (D-San Jose)
Jim Patterson (R-Fresno)
Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach)
James Ramos (D-Highland)
Robert Rivas (D- Salinas)
Kelly Seyarto (R-Murrieta)
Marie Waldron (R-Escondido)
Jim Wood (D-Santa Rosa)

According to the California Department of Public Health's Overdose Surveillance Dashboard, opioid-related overdose deaths among youth ages 10-19 years increased 407% from 2018 (54 total) to 2020 (274 total), largely driven by fentanyl. Meanwhile, emergency department visits for non-fatal opioid overdoses among youth 10-19 years more than tripled from 2018 (379 total) to 2020 (1,222 total).

Thursday's announcement also comes days after the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency warned of a new trend of fentanyl distributed in brightly-colored pills, powder and blocks that looks like candy or sidewalk chalk.

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