Sen. Pat Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) has introduced a measure in the California Legislature to create a task force in Southern California to combat the region’s growing problem with the deadly opioid fentanyl.
Senate Bill 75 (SB 75), a bipartisan measure, would form a task force under the auspices of the California attorney general to coordinate law enforcement efforts and assist local agencies in their work to reduce reduce fentanyl-related deaths.
“As a former social worker who once worked in communities ravaged by drugs, California must do more to save people from fentanyl-related tragedies,” Bates said in a Dec. 21 press release. “A task force would help maximize existing resources and improve communication among various agencies.”
Bates authored the bill with Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes, Assemblymember Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach), Assembly Republican Leader Marie Waldron (R-Escondido), and Senator Melissa Melendez (R-Lake Elsinore).
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that’s 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine and is often used to increase the potency of heroin, according to the release. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the United States has seen the highest rate of drug overdoses in history in the year ending in May—over 81,000—with a significant uptick due to the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department has reported a significant increase of fentanyl seizures over the past five years. The department did not seize any amount of the drug in 2015, but reported seizing 169 pounds of fentanyl in 2019.
Two milligrams of fentanyl is considered lethal; the department’s seizure in 2019 could create 38 million deadly doses, according to the release.
Barnes called the current trend of rising fentanyl deaths “unacceptable,” and said the bill will help reverse the trend by holding drug traffickers accountable.
“Fentanyl continues to pose a substantial risk to our communities. As a state we must enhance our efforts to reduce the prevalence of this opioid from our communities,” Barnes said in the press release.
The task force would include representatives from the California Department of Justice, the California Highway Patrol, and the counties of Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, and San Diego. It would report to the Department of Justice and California Legislature.
A similar bill was introduced in the Senate in March, but was not pursued because of the pandemic. The Senate has not yet set a hearing date for the new bill.