Outbreak of opioid overdoses in the Eastern Sierra

Mono County Health Department news release

By Dr. Tom Boo

The last few weeks have seen a spike in the number of opioid overdoses in the Bishop and Mammoth Lakes areas. A Bishop police officer estimates there have been 6-8 overdoses in and around Bishop in the last few weeks, with two lives lost, while the Mammoth Hospital ER has reported two non-fatal overdoses in the last two weeks.

These are alarming numbers for our rural area.

It is rumored that the deaths, and presumably some of the other overdoses, are linked to a dangerous batch of heroin that reached our area. Often such overdose outbreaks are attributable to heroin that is laced with fentanyl, a superpotent injectable opioid.
The American opioid overdose death epidemic continues although deaths declined nationally last year for the first time since the epidemic was recognized. I hope we are not going in the other direction.

Many overdose deaths can be prevented. One way to do that is to distribute the overdose antidote, naloxone (also known as Narcan, a brand name), in the community and to equip law enforcement and other public safety personnel with this lifesaving drug. Naloxone comes in nasal spray and injectable forms for emergency use and many communities in America have successfully reduced overdose deaths by getting naloxone out there, into the hands of people most likely to encounter an overdose.

Free naloxone (Narcan) nasal spray is currently available from Mono County agencies, Northern Inyo Hospital in Bishop, and Toiyabe Indian Health Project. See below for details. Police officers in Mammoth Lakes and Bishop now carry naloxone for emergency use. Officers in Bishop recently rescued one overdose victim.

A community-generated Opioid Awareness Event that will include naloxone training and distribution is being held this Tuesday evening, August 20, 5:30 PM at the Barlow Avenue gym (390 N. Barlow Lane) in Bishop. Everyone is welcome and dinner will be served. Doors open at 5PM.

Opioid use disorder (addiction) is a challenging but treatable disease. The most effective approach is medication-assisted treatment (MAT), which combines medications which prevent withdrawal and control cravings with counseling or
psychotherapy. MAT options in the Eastern Sierra are rapidly increasing. MAT with buprenorphine (aka Suboxone) is currently available at No. Inyo Hospital and will soon be available at all Toiyabe Indian Health Project locations, if it is not

Mammoth Hospital plans to offer MAT for opioid use disorder before the end of the year and it likely will soon be available at Mono County Behavioral Health.

As Mono County Health Officer and part of the MAT team at No. Inyo Hospital I urge people who use drugs to be careful and to learn about services available to reduce harms from substance use (below). There are a lot of people in our area now working to help people who use drugs stay alive and safe, and to provide help when people want to get off drugs.

I hope that people who use opioids and the people who care about them will look into getting naloxone and learning when and how to use it. Naloxone nasal spray is safe, easy to use, and saves lives.

Mono County EMS in collaboration with Mammoth Media Productions has produced a short training video on using naloxone for opioid overdose rescue https://monohealth.com/public-health

We are developing additional substance use and harm reduction resources for the Mono Co. Public Health website.

Opioid and Substance Use: Public and Tribal Harm Reduction Resources for Mono County Residents Mono County Behavioral Health: Free naloxone (Narcan nasal spray) available; new certified syringe exchange/harm reduction resource center opening soon. Counseling/therapy for substance use disorders available for people with MediCal. 3rd Floor Sierra Center Mall, Old Mammoth Road, (760) 924-1740

Mono County Public Health: Free naloxone (Narcan nasal spray) available; testing for hepatitis C and HIV and referral for treatment if positive; safe injection practice education and additional resource information. 2d Floor Minaret Mall, above Giovanni’s restaurant, junction Meridian and Old Mammoth Rd, (760) 924-1830

Mono County Emergency Medical Services (EMS): Currently, Paramedic Training Officer Ray McGrale can distribute naloxone (Narcan nasal spray) and we anticipate that paramedics across the county will soon be properly trained and supplied with naloxone for distribution. Call (760) 934-3049 to reach Ray.

Northern Inyo Hospital Free naloxone (Narcan nasal spray) available; MAT for opioid use disorder with buprenorphine (aka Suboxone) or naltrexone; testing for bloodborne pathogens and treatment of hepatitis C; safe injection practice education; assistance with other substance use issues. NIH is also applying to become a certified syringe exchange program. Emergency MAT initiation is available in the NIH Emergency Department where all doctors are getting certified to prescribe buprenorphine. NIH Rural Health Clinic, 153 B Pioneer Lane, Bishop, (760) 873-2031 ask for Arlene Brown or the Care Coordination/MAT Team nurses. Transportation assistance may be available.

Toiyabe Indian Health Project: Free naloxone (Narcan nasal spray) available; MAT available in Lone Pine and soon to be available at all sites; testing for hepatitis and HIV; Hep C treatment available soon; counseling and assistance with substance use disorders. Clinic locations in Bishop, Lone Pine and Coleville. Call Toiyabe Family Services (760) 873-6394 for more information.

Mammoth Hospital: Behavioral health services; testing for hepatitis and HIV; possible HIV treatment and referral for Hep C treatment. MAT program coming soon.

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19 Responses to Outbreak of opioid overdoses in the Eastern Sierra

  1. Maureen E McClain August 28, 2019 at 10:22 am #

    Of course, the problem I have seen is that when an addict ask for help it should be on the ready. That is many addicts do not get help becuase they cannot wait 8 or 10 days it takes to get them help. They need it now.

  2. Maureen Elizabeth McClain August 22, 2019 at 4:15 pm #

    On a factual basis an autopsy would avail either heroin or heroin laced with fentinol. So let’s not scare people unless we have facts. In Seattle Police agencies as well as the addict carry narcan. It is easy to obtain. Is that the case in Mono County?

    • Compassion can be hard, but try anyway August 26, 2019 at 10:53 am #

      Yeah….it’s been a major trend everywhere else that people are cutting heroin with fentanyl, but we’re too wholesome here. Our heroin is as pure as the driven snow.

      Maureen, you’ve really got it out for addicts, huh? If someone you know is struggling with addiction, I am sorry. I know exactly how sad and angry and powerless that feels.

      And if you don’t know what you’re talking about, then mind your own business.

      • Maureen E McClain August 26, 2019 at 3:06 pm #

        Compassion, I apologize. That is not the impression I meant to give.I know quite a bit about addiction both through experience and education. I am not an addict. I have a heart for addicts. I was trying to advocate that for compassion sake narcan should be made availablle to addicts through their PCP. The comment about the veteran meant towasn’t be mean, but I can see where you would get that impression. Addicts and their families desparately need our prayers and our understanding. There is a trauma associated with heroin withdrawal, it is called post acute withdrawal syndrome. Please explore this.

        • Trouble August 27, 2019 at 8:06 am #

          Sorry Maureen, I should have stated my comment differently. I would add that I strongly believe that if a person ask for help getting the drug out of their system, doctors should be allowed to do that. There is now a way to do that. Why not?

  3. Bob August 22, 2019 at 5:55 am #

    Small town, with real World issues

  4. Wondering August 21, 2019 at 6:34 am #

    I hate that our world has come to Officers having to carry Narcan, but I pray that it will save some more lives from this horrendous epidemic.

  5. Kathy A Nixon August 20, 2019 at 11:13 am #

    My ex is paired with the VA healthcare system. They prescibe him opiates for chronic pain and they also prescribe him naxolone in case of accidental overdose. Everyone in our household knows how to administer it. We have never had to but its comforting to know we have it.

    • Maureen Elizabeth McClain August 22, 2019 at 4:16 pm #

      Is your ex an addict then?

      • Trouble August 26, 2019 at 5:26 am #

        Maureen, that is a unnecessary and actually mean question in my book!

  6. Trouble August 20, 2019 at 10:00 am #

    Thank you for a article that may well really help save someone’s life some day. I hope all the emergency agency’s and responders are able to carry these products with them at all times!
    Thank you again to all involved with this article!

  7. Mono Person August 20, 2019 at 8:43 am #

    “Opioid Use Disorder”?? Where is George Carlin when you need him…

  8. Donny T August 20, 2019 at 6:51 am #

    This is all Obama’s fault.

    • Well, it's Trump's problem now August 20, 2019 at 12:36 pm #

      OxyContin was originally approved by FDA in December 1995.

      • David Dennison August 20, 2019 at 4:21 pm #

        I was gonna say,those that want to say everything is President Obama’s fault,you can only say and fabricate that for so long…trump says it was “him” that turned the economy around (just ANOTHER lie) in like 14 days after he took office…never mind the fact the Country is in HUGE deficit now….why hasn’t trump done anything to address the opioid problem ?…but then if he did,all it would be is a bunch of lies and lip service anyway….

        • Dpblue August 20, 2019 at 8:18 pm #

          Lies and lip service.
          For him that’s called gettin stuff done.

        • Maureen Elizabeth McClain August 22, 2019 at 4:18 pm #

          I am quite sure that it is the fault of the user. Clearly.

          • Compassion can be hard, but try anyway August 26, 2019 at 10:37 am #

            I am quite sure it’s the fault of the doctor’s over prescribing really serious, heavy, addictive pain killers (a legal schedule 2 narcotic, which was not legal until oxycontin was approved).

            I am quite sure it’s the fault of Purdue LYING about how addictive oxycontin is, and that it was time release, and pushing it out to doctors like crazy. In fact, several courts agree with me (https://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/21/business/21pharma.html).

            I am quite sure the opioid epidemic is characterized by the fact that it’s not limited to traditional drug users, but includes people across all demographics, and income and education levels.

            I am quite sure stigma kills.

            I am quite sure that if you haven’t watched someone you love go from being prescribed a pain killer, by a qualified physician following surgery, to being unable – despite many efforts to find other solutions for pain management and rehab – to kick opioids out of their life, you are so lucky.

          • Maureen E McClain August 28, 2019 at 10:25 am #

            What I meant was that if the addict is not alowed to take his ownership in the problem then he has no power to change it.


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