The Orange County Coroner’s Office report for the first quarter of 2021 reported a 77% rise in accidental overdose deaths. Deaths by fentanyl overdose were up 177%. The trend is expected to continue.

Recently, carfentanyl, an analog of fentanyl that is 50 times more powerful has been found in Orange County. We are losing more than one person per day in Orange County to overdose deaths. It is only going to get worse if we don’t act.

But our civic leaders are doing little to stem the crisis. The deaths of three persons by suspected overdose discovered recently on Balboa Island in Newport Beach graphically illustrate that it doesn’t matter who you are or what your zip code is there is no hiding. Cocaine laced with fentanyl was responsible for the deaths of three people, including comedian Fuquan Johnson, at a party in Venice Beach last month.

The Solace Foundation has done a commendable job in ensuring that the antidote to opioid overdose, naloxone, also known as Narcan, gets to where it is needed. They need support and more volunteers. We need all of those who come in contact with people with addiction to have the antidotes available.

Almost all law enforcement and emergency responders now carry naloxone with them. In some cities a first responder might find themselves dealing with 2-3 overdoses in a single shift.

We need thousands more doses of the antidotes on the street and we need them now and we need them where they will do the most good; at the places where individuals with addiction use and in places like sober living homes.

As someone who watched the body of a young man removed by EMT’s from a sober living home I know the hard reality that it is sometimes impossible for someone with addiction to resist using “just one more time”. Fentanyl is a higher high for some. It is also a death sentence sometimes.

We need to educate the public on bus shelters and in our schools and in our community organizations and we need to do it now.

Today, the parents and loved ones of three people are grieving. Overdoses have taxed our health system and brought death and despair to thousands. We have to act now. Call your elected officials. Tell them to get on the ball.

Matt Holzmann is a businessman who has lived in Orange County for over 40 years. He is also a family member of individuals with substance use disorder and mental illnesses and is an advocate for individuals with brain disorders.

Opinions expressed in community opinion pieces belong to the authors and not Voice of OC.

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