Opioid epidemic in OC’s low-income residents

Painful stories about the people who overdosed and the people working to prevent such tragedies are part of the Orange County Register’s ongoing and eye-opening coverage of the opioid epidemic by columnist David Whiting and others. No one disagrees that our county is in the midst of a lethal opioid epidemic, and the human toll is too high.

Indeed, the numbers of people dying are distressing. County reports show that drug overdoses have killed 1,769 Orange County residents in the past five years. In 2016 alone, there were more than 400 fatal drug overdoses. More than two-thirds of these involved opioids, including common prescription painkillers such as Percocet, OxyContin and Vicodin. And as controls tighten on these medications, those addicted often turn to heroin and deadly synthetic heroin analogues like Fentanyl.

Given these realities, a strong, unified community response to combat soaring addiction and fatality rates is required. As Orange County’s single largest health plan, and only provider of Medi-Cal coverage, CalOptima is keenly focused on the opioid problem and working in partnership with various agencies to address it. We must — the low-income population we serve is particularly vulnerable.

Yes, it’s true that opioid deaths affect our most affluent coastal communities, but it’s also true that lower socioeconomic groups are impacted more. Nationwide, more than 45 percent of the people who suffer a fatal prescription drug overdose are enrolled in Medicaid, the program for the poor that we call…

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