An upcoming summit in Marin County hopes to increase awareness around deaths by overdose and the dangers of fentanyl.

The Marin County Overdose Prevention Summit will take place Nov. 15 and will feature agencies, community members, parents and school leadership “to end preventable overdoses in Marin.”

Overdose deaths in Marin have climbed annually, the county said. The trend is being driven by fentanyl, an opioid that is about 100 times stronger than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin. The illicit drug is being laced in black market pain pills and other illegal drugs, leading to the public information campaign known as “One Pill Can Kill,” a warning to recreational drug users who might not realize the lethality of ingesting street drugs.

Kathy Koblick, public health division director for the county, says there were 30 deaths by overdose in 2018 and 62 in 2019, a 107 percent increase.

In 2021, there were 42 overdose deaths in the county, according to the California Department of Public Health. Data for 2020 is not available, according to county data.

“We are unable to say anything meaningful about the number of overdose deaths in 2022 because the data for 2020 are still incomplete,” said Koblick in an email. “If I were to make conclusions based on the current numbers, it would seem to indicate that overdose deaths had decreased, but that is just because there are deaths where the cause is not yet determined.”

Is it real or is it fake? Authentic Oxycodone tablets are pictured in the top row of this image from the DEA’s “One Pill Can Kill” campaign. Phony versions of the synthetic opioid painkiller — which are often sold on the street or online and may contain fentanyl or other deadly substances — are shown in the bottom row. (Images via DEA)

RxSafe Marin, sponsor of the summit and a “community coalition dedicated to reducing harm from prescription and other drugs,” says that “recent data from Marin County Public Health show that the county is on track for another record year of overdose deaths, placing Marin in step with patterns across the region and state.”

According to the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data for 2020, California leads the country in overdose deaths, with 8,908 for that year, though due to its large population only ranks 33rd nationwide with 21.8 deaths per 100,000 residents. The state with the highest death rate per 100,000 residents is West Virginia, with 81.4 deaths.

Marin County had the second-lowest overdose rate in the Bay Area in 2021, though it also has the second-lowest population behind Napa County, which had 14 overdose deaths to Marin’s 42.

The summit at 4 p.m. on Nov. 15 is open to the public and will examine the overdose epidemic and will “help shape 2023’s goals” by forming breakout sessions covering education and outreach, a youth action team, the justice system, health equity, and intervention, treatment and recovery. There will also be speakers sharing their stories to “reinforce the human impact” of the epidemic, the county said.

People interested in attending the summit at the Embassy Suites in San Rafael should register online, but space is limited.

Katy St. Clair got her start in journalism by working in the classifieds department at the East Bay Express during the height of alt weeklies, then sweet talked her way into becoming staff writer, submissions editor, and music editor. She has been a columnist in the East Bay Express, SF Weekly, and the San Francisco Examiner. Starting in 2015, she begrudgingly scaled the inverted pyramid at dailies such as the Vallejo Times-Herald, The Vacaville Reporter, and the Daily Republic. She has her own independent news site and blog that covers the delightfully dysfunctional town of Vallejo, California, where she also collaborates with the investigative team at Open Vallejo. A passionate advocate for people with developmental disabilities, she serves on both the Board of the Arc of Solano and the Arc of California. She lives in Vallejo.