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"Melanie's Law" enacted to prevent fentanyl overdoses in California schools

PIX Now - Morning Edition 10/16/23
PIX Now - Morning Edition 10/16/23 07:39

Middle and high school students across California will be protected by a new law requiring life-saving prevention and response resources for fentanyl overdoses under legislation signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday.

Newsom announced on Friday that he had signed Senate Bill 10 or Melanie's Law, introduced by Sen. Dave Cortese, D-San Jose, which aims to prevent and respond to youth fentanyl overdoses through mandated school safety plans requiring prevention, response, training, education and awareness.

According to Cortese's office, fentanyl is responsible for one in five youth deaths in California. It added that in Santa Clara County, fentanyl deaths spiked by 863 percent between 2018 and 2021.

SB 10 mandates that every public school in California provide training to school employees on opioid prevention and life-saving response under a formal plan known as a Comprehensive School Safety Plan, or CSSP.

Additionally, the bill establishes a state framework to ensure that all students and adults understand the growing risk of youth fentanyl exposure, and have access to the resources needed to prevent and respond to fentanyl poisoning and overdoses.

"When we wrote this bill one year ago, we knew that it would be our most significant piece of legislation in 2023. SB 10 was our top priority because fentanyl has left a trail of devastation across California, and our bill establishes a series of concrete solutions to protect young people," Cortese said in a statement Friday.

"We created a coalition of parents and educators unwilling to stand by while another young life is lost... As we celebrate SB 10 becoming law, we honor Melanie Ramos, a bright teenager who lost her life to fentanyl. Melanie's Law will save young lives in California for decades to come," the senator added.

SB 10 is named in honor of Melanie Ramos, a 15-year-old who overdosed on fentanyl and died in the bathroom of her high school in Hollywood in September 2022. At the time, Melanie and her friend had no idea they were taking fentanyl, Cortese's office said.

"Melanie was an amazing, talented young person. Her memory lives with her friends and family, and her legacy will be felt across California. I miss her dearly, but her memory and my love for her has given me the strength to speak so that other mothers will not have to suffer what I am suffering," said Elena Perez, mother of Melanie Ramos, in a statement Friday.

"I thank Governor Newsom for signing Melanie's Law. I ask every middle and high school employee in California to do the overdose prevention training and have Narcan available. Let's please protect every young person," Perez added.

SB 10 would also give school staff, students and families information about the growing risk of opioids, informational material and safety advice, in partnership with the California Department of Education.

"The Santa Clara County Office of Education proudly co-sponsored SB10 because we understand the necessity of equipping every secondary school with the knowledge and tools to educate our students about the prevalence of fentanyl and if necessary, save a student who is overdosing," said Dr. Mary Ann Dewan, County Superintendent of Schools, in a statement.

SB 10 was inspired by the Santa Clara County Fentanyl Working Group, a collaborative effort involving the Santa Clara County Office of Education, Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen, County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors, Santa Clara County Behavioral Health Services and the Santa Clara County Opioid Overdose Prevention Project.

The working group aims to combat fentanyl's impact through a multifaceted strategy, including raising awareness of its dangers in schools and providing life-saving opioid reversal medication.

"We started The Fentanyl Working Group in Santa Clara County almost two years ago after a 12-year-old died of fentanyl poisoning, and the person who gave her the pill was arrested. Within a few months, we had Narcan in almost every school district and training sessions underway," said Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez, co-chair of Santa Clara County's Fentanyl Working Group.

"When dealing with a crisis, there's no time to waste. That's why we are expanding our distribution of Narcan in concert venues, bars, restaurants and by mail order. Additionally, we're expanding prevention and public awareness campaigns tailored for youth and young adults, and increasing the training of physicians in drug prevention and addiction. We are using opioid lawsuit settlement money to fund much of the expansion," Chavez added.

SB 10 bill is co-sponsored by the Santa Clara County Office of Education, the County of Santa Clara, the California Association of Student Councils and the California Consortium of Addiction Programs & Professionals (CCAPP).

"With the right tools and resources, we will end the fentanyl crisis in California. SB 10 will prevent overdose deaths by empowering schools with strategies, resources and awareness," said Sherry Daley, CCAPP's Vice President of Governmental Affairs and Corporate Communications.

Support for SB 10 also includes Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, the California Teachers Association, the California Federation of Teachers, the Santa Clara County School Boards Association, the Los Angeles County Office of Education, ACLU California and the California School Nurses Organization.

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