Fentanyl crisis hits tribal communities


Last updated 4/13/2023 at 4:37pm

Assemblymember Marie Waldron

75th District

On March 28, the Native American Caucus held a hearing in Sacramento to discuss fentanyl’s impact on tribal communities and to raise awareness along with identifying solutions to the crisis. As a member of the Caucus, I was extremely honored to take part in this eye-opening discussion.

Participants included representatives from reservations throughout California, including the Pala Band of Indians and the Manzanita Band, both from San Diego County. Healthcare providers, law enforcement and other tribal officials attended.

A few sobering statistics from Northern California were provided:

· In Del Norte County in 2021, Emergency Department visits for fentanyl-related overdoses of Native persons were 54.49 per 100,000 residents; for whites the rate was 5.87 per 100,000

· The fentanyl-related overdose death rate for Native peoples in Humboldt County was 114.99 per 100,000, vs. 26.32 for Hispanics and 23.80 for the white population

These tragic statistics are not unique to Northern California. Throughout the state, we have seen a significant increase in opioid overdoses (mostly from illegally produced synthetic opioids like fentanyl brought to the reservation by non-tribal people), along with increased suicide rates, homelessness, domestic violence and child abuse.

The societal cost of these poisons is massive, and the problem is magnified in Indian Country. Emergency response is often too far away, there is a significant lack of regional treatment services in rural/tribal areas, and mental health crisis teams are mostly unavailable.

Solutions include providing overdose reversing drugs such as Naloxone for reservations, increased drug prevention/education programs aimed at youth, and increased state investments in Medically Assisted Treatment delivery services in rural communities. To get more information about treatment programs in tribal areas, go to https://californiamat.org/matproject/tribal-mat-program/.

By working directly with California’s tribal governments, thousands of lives will be saved. I will continue my efforts to make that happen.


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