Published on August 30, 2022

Dramatic increase in fentanyl overdose cases and death in Monterey County requires action


Monterey County, Calif. — Fatal overdoses from opioids have increased eight-fold since 2018 — prompting agencies, organizations, and individuals to step up their efforts to decrease opioid misuse and to ask the public for help. Monterey Prescribe Safe Initiative, Montage Health, and the City of Monterey are inviting community members to the Overdose Awareness Day Resource Fair on August 31 at the Monterey Convention Center. 

At a press conference on August 30, 2022 in front of Monterey’s City Hall, Ed Smith, Vice Mayor, City of Monterey, Dr. Reb Close, Emergency department, Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, and physician leader, Monterey County Prescribe Safe Initiative, Mike Bruno, Assistant Chief of Police, City of Monterey, Michele Henderson, mother of child who passed in Carmel Valley due to fentanyl poisoning, Krista Reuther, Ohana, and Pastor Mike Casey, Bridge Restoration Ministry, all will speak about the work being done and what the community can do to further prevent fatal overdoses.

In Monterey County, fentanyl deaths from 2018 to 2021 increased by more than 8 times, with a majority of the deaths in 2020 being those who were 30 years and under.

Monterey County Prescribe Safe Initiative, a collaborative of more than 35 local business and agencies, has been addressing the opioid addiction problem since 2014. In 2018, Monterey County had the second-lowest opioid-related death rate of any county in California as a lot of great progress had been made. But, in the last few years, counterfeit medications have entered the market, many with a toxic or lethal dose of fentanyl, causing a staggering increase in opioid-related overdoses and deaths. Fentanyl is a very powerful opioid, 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. There were 65 opioid-related deaths in both 2020 and 2021 in Monterey County. Many of the deaths over the past couple of years are potentially linked to the counterfeit pills containing fentanyl, made to look like prescription medications. Many who take this pill were unaware that they were taking a deadly dose of fentanyl.

At Tuesday’s news conference, Monterey County Prescribe Safe Initiative partners provided the latest information on the counterfeit medications and their toll, and asked the public to help share the information. The partners are also seeking help in tracking the sources of the deadly drugs, provide resource information for those who need it, and let people know about the Overdose Awareness Day Resource Fair on August 31. 

Flag display

Around 1,500 flags were on display on Tuesday from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. at Colton Hall lawn to honor those whose lives have been affected by addiction. These flags were provided by Montage Health Foundation to the Monterey County Prescribe Safe Initiative for families, loved ones, and organizations to recognize those we have lost, those in recovery, and those who have been impacted by addiction.

Overdose Awareness Day Resource Fair

August 31 is Overdose Awareness Day. Community members are invited to the Monterey Conference Center on August 31, 3-5 p.m. to learn more about how to rescue someone from an overdose and how we can prevent, treat, and recover from addiction. Several Monterey County Prescribe Safe Initiative partners will be in attendance with resources, information, and more to assist those who want to know more about how to address addiction. Free Narcan, an FDA-approved naloxone medication that saves lives by reversing the effects of an opioid (including fentanyl) overdose will be provided for free to attendees. Supplies are limited, one box per attendee, first come, first served. Community members can park in the Downtown West Garage at 340 Tyler Street; the first hour is free. The event is supported with funding by the Montage Health Foundation and Monterey Peninsula Foundation.

What can community members do:

  1. Attend the Overdose Awareness Day Resource Fair at the Monterey Conference Center, Wednesday, August 31, 2022 from 3–5 p.m.
  2. Residents should NOT take any medications not prescribed to them through a doctor’s office and pharmacy. Do not buy or accept pills or candy from any other source as many pills look exactly like their medication counterparts, but can contain lethal doses of opioid. And, most recently, fentanyl was detected in a form that looked like rainbow candy.
  3. Parents should talk to their children about pills or other items offered to them of unknown origin.
  4. Community members should notify law enforcement if they have ANY information that could lead to the origin of the counterfeit pills or other illegal drugs. Investigators can be called at (831) 646-6926 or if you wish to remain anonymous, contact the Tip-Line (831) 646-3840. Law enforcement officers say their goal is to find the suppliers and dealers, not the users who are the victims being caught up in the epidemic.
  5. Community members should have a supply of naloxone, the reversal agent for an opioid overdose and be trained on how to use it. Naloxone can be purchased at a local pharmacy, or provided for free at a list of resources on Montage Health’s Prescribe Safe website, or at the Overdose Awareness Day Resource Fair on August 31.
  6. If an overdose is suspected, 911 should be called immediately to obtain medical assistance, even if a first responder has naloxone and is trained on how to use it.