In California, based on data available from the Department of Public Health as of January 4, 2023, there were 7,175 opioid-related overdose deaths in 2021, with 5,961 being fentanyl-related. Amongst those, 236 were teens aged 15 to 19. Another staggering data point on this report is the 21,016 emergency department visits related to opioid overdoses in 2021.1
With the state's COVID-19 public health emergency expired as of February 28, 2023, lawmakers have the chance to focus more on legislation addressing the ongoing opioid crisis.
Starting with a special bipartisan committee to investigate fentanyl and opioid deaths, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (Lakewood-D) approved the creation of the Assembly Select Committee on Fentanyl, Opioid Addiction, and Overdose Prevention. According to the committee's designated chair, Matt Haney (San Francisco-D), the bipartisan committee will focus on three areas of the opioid crisis: "public health response to opioid addiction; the response of law enforcement to the sale of opioids and fentanyl; and current medical practices for treating opioids and fentanyl addiction." Additionally, the committee will hold meetings in impacted communities across the state and will hear from national addiction experts, local and state leaders, and residents.2
Committee members include four Republicans and seven Democrats. They are:
Members of the Select Committee on Fentanyl, Overdose Prevention, & Opioids
Assemblymember Matt Haney (D-San Francisco)
Assemblymember Isaac Bryan (D-Los Angeles)
Assemblymember Laurie Davies (R-Laguna Niguel)
Assemblymember Ash Kalra (D-San Jose)
Assemblymember Jim Patterson (R-Fresno)
Assemblymember Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach)
Assemblymember James Ramos (D-Highland)
Assemblymember Robert Rivas (D-Salinas)
Assemblymember Kelly Seyarto (R-Murrieta)
Assemblymember Marie Waldron (R-Escondido)
Assemblymember Jim Wood (D-Santa Rosa)
Other bills now introduced into the 2023-2024 legislative cycle include:
AB 33 (Bains-D) Fentanyl Task Force
Summary: Would state the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation relating to a fentanyl task force, in order to identify and address the fentanyl crisis as part of the opioid epidemic in this state. The bill would further state the intent of the Legislature that any future appropriation made for the purpose of implementing the fentanyl task force does not exceed a specific dollar amount.
AB 462 (Ramos-D) Overdose Response Teams
Summary: Would authorize the Counties of San Bernardino, Riverside, and Orange, until January 1, 2029, to establish and implement overdose response teams with the sheriff’s departments of those counties. The bill would require these teams to only respond to and investigate overdose deaths and nonfatal overdoses involving juveniles and multiple victims, with a focus on overdose deaths related to fentanyl. The bill would require counties participating in these programs to send annual reports to the Assembly Select Committee on Fentanyl, Opioid Addiction, and Overdose Prevention, including the number of arrests of drug dealers in each county, the amount of fentanyl and opioids seized in each county, and the number of units of opioid antagonists found at each overdose scene.
SB 10 (Cortese-D) Pupil Health: Opioid Overdose Prevention and Treatment
Summary: Current law requires the Department of Education to recommend best practices and identify training programs for use by local educational agencies to address youth behavioral health issues. Current law also requires the department to ensure that each identified training program provides instruction on recognizing the signs and symptoms of youth behavioral health disorders, including common psychiatric conditions and substance use disorders, such as opioid and alcohol abuse. This bill would add the requirement that training programs provide instruction to school staff on the use of emergency opioid antagonists for purposes of treating an opioid overdose, with the recommended training following specified standards and criteria.
SB 62 (Nguyen-R) Controlled Substances: Fentanyl
Summary: Current law prohibits a person from possessing for sale or purchasing for purposes of sale, specified controlled substances, including fentanyl, and provides for imprisonment in a county jail for 2 to 4 years for a violation of this provision. Current law also imposes an additional term and authorizes a trial court to impose a specified fine upon a person who is convicted of a violation of, or of a conspiracy to violate, specified provisions of law with respect to a substance containing heroin, cocaine base, and cocaine, if the substance exceeds a specified weight. This bill would impose that additional term upon, and authorize a fine against, a defendant who violates those laws with respect to a substance containing fentanyl. By increasing the penalty for a crime, the bill would impose a state mandated local program.
SB 67 (Seyarto-R) Controlled Substances: Overdose Reporting
Summary: Would require an emergency medical services provider who treats and releases or transports an individual to a medical facility who is experiencing a suspected or an actual overdose to report the incident to the Emergency Medical Services Authority. The bill requires the authority to report the data gathered pursuant to the bill to the Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program managed by the Washington/Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program.
SB 237 (Grove-R) Controlled Substances: Fentanyl
Summary: Current law prohibits a person from possessing for sale or purchasing for purposes of sale specified controlled substances, including fentanyl, and punishes a violation of that prohibition by imprisonment in a county jail for 2 to 4 years. Current law also prohibits transporting, importing into this state, selling, furnishing, administering, or giving away specified controlled substances, including fentanyl, and punishes a violation of that prohibition by imprisonment in a county jail for 3 to 5 years. Current law also prohibits the trafficking of specified controlled substances, including fentanyl, and punishes a violation of that prohibition by imprisonment in a county jail for anywhere between 3 to 9 years. The bill would punish the possession, sale, or purchase for sale of fentanyl by imprisonment in a county jail for 4 to 6 years, the transportation, importation, sale, furnishing, administering, or giving away of fentanyl by imprisonment in a county jail for 7 to 9 years, and the trafficking of fentanyl by imprisonment in a county jail for anywhere between 7 to 13 years.
Gabriela Villanueva is CAP’s Government and External Affairs Analyst. Questions or comments related to this article should be directed to GVillanueva@CAPphysicians.com.
California has education and prevention resources, including a program that offers free Naloxone, a life-saving medication used to reverse opioid overdose, for qualified organizations. For more information, go to: https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/OPA/Pages/NR22-148.aspx
1California Overdose Surveillance Dashboard. https://skylab.cdph.ca.gov/ODdash/?tab=Home
2Press Release. September 29, 2022. Assemblymember Haney Announces Creation of Special Bipartisan Committee to Investigate Fentanyl and Opioid Deaths in California, https://a17.asmdc.org/press-releases/20220929-assemblymember-haney-announces-creation-special-bipartisan-committee