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SafeRx Santa Cruz County Receives Support to Strengthen Local Efforts to Reduce Opioid Use, Opioid

(Santa Cruz, CA – April 3, 2018) — SafeRx Santa Cruz County, a community-based coalition, is tackling the opioid epidemic and will receive support to bolster its capacity to reduce new opioid prescriptions, advocate for safe pain management and effective opioid use disorder treatment, and challenge stigma and misconceptions surrounding opioid use disorder. The support, which is being provided to regional coalitions throughout the state, comes through the California Opioid Safety Network (COSN).

“As a community, we have to come together to solve this problem,” said SafeRx physician co-lead, Dr. Jen Hastings. “Tackling this epidemic takes people with diverse perspectives and experience, and that’s the kind of collaboration we’re continuing to build here.”

Funded by the California HealthCare Foundation and managed by Public Health Institute’s Center for Health Leadership and Practice, COSN will provide resources and tools to support SafeRx in continuing to forge a truly local response to the crisis. The momentum comes largely from dedicated volunteers – parents, physicians, pharmacists, and professionals in public health, behavioral health, and law enforcement - striving together to take concrete steps to prevent and treat substance dependence and save lives. Members of SafeRx meet monthly to review data, share their experience and insights, and plan and implement strategies that show promise here or in other parts of the country.

Led by Health Improvement Partnership and Community Prevention Partners, members have chosen to focus on reducing stigma, educating providers and community members on safer pain management and the concept of opioid failure, and increasing the distribution of the overdose reversal medication, naloxone (brand name Narcan).

SafeRx forged a proactive community response to the opioid crisis beginning in 2015. Early achievements have included developing a now widely accepted definition of opioid failure (supporting the idea that the medication has failed the patient and not the other way around), provider education on safe prescribing through five different continuing medical education events, production of new safer prescribing guidelines in the emergency department, creation of community messaging brochures and television commercials, and passing of an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) ordinance for the safe county-wide collection of medications and sharps. SafeRx has also been instrumental in achieving various positive trends including reduced opioid prescriptions and an increase in the number of medical providers who hold an X-license, which allows a provider to prescribe opioid-based medications specifically for the treatment of opioid use disorder.

Many Californians are increasingly aware of the scope of the crisis. SafeRx Santa Cruz County invites community members to get involved and bring their own experience and skills to the table.

“We are looking for volunteers from within our community – people who are action-oriented, able to be strategic, and willing to work together,” said Brenda Armstrong, Prevention Program Manager for the County’s Substance Use Disorder Services and Community Prevention Partners. Community members who are interested in contributing to SafeRx’s success can get in touch by contacting Rachel Stein at

At the statewide level, the California death rate has not declined for the last two years but it is holding steady. “At a local level, opioid overdose death rates are decreasing from 44 in 2015 to 25 in 2017”, says Dr. Stephany Fiore, Forensic Pathologist at the Santa Cruz County Sheriff-Coroner’s Office.

“We are seeing signs of progress in this fight, and local coalitions are among the most powerful forces we have,” said Dr. Kelly Pfeifer, Director of CHCF’s High-Value Care team.

The state’s dashboard, created by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), contains statistics on opioid overdoses by county. See Santa Cruz County here [].

To learn more about SafeRx Santa Cruz County, visit

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