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North County group to observe addiction awareness day

The Addiction Awareness Initiative
The Addiction Awareness Initiative and North County Justice Allies 501(c) 3 recently held a press conference at Encinitas City Hall regarding International Overdose Awareness Day: (Pictured after the press conference, l-r) Carol Skiljan, Chris Zahner, Jennifer Haskett, Lisa Nava, Samantha Terauds, Nina Seibert and Liz Young
(Nina Seibert)

Event promoting education on opioid epidemic scheduled Aug. 29 at Encinitas park

Experimenting with alcohol, marijuana and other drugs historically has been a right of passage among youths on the threshold of adulthood.

Such indulgences were risky, yet rarely life-threatening. In recent years, the incursion of exponentially more powerful opioids has altered the calculus of risk-versus-reward in recreational drug use.

The burgeoning rate of addiction and deaths due to opioids, including fentanyl-laced drugs, has reached epidemic proportions, especially among young people, representatives of North County Justice Allies said in a press conference held Tuesday, Aug. 24, outside Encinitas City Hall.

“Their experience of experimentation is called Russian roulette: One blue pill will kill,” NCJA President Lisa Nava said of the threat to today’s generation of youths and young adults.

The Encinitas resident personally experienced the heartbreak of having a loved one taken through a drug overdose. The death of her 24-year-old son in April 2019 due to a fentanyl overdose led her and members of the NCJA to launch the Addiction Awareness Initiative in memory of son Alex Nava.

Lisa Nava, Allies’ Vice President Nina Seibert and Allan Acevedo, operations director of the Oceanside-based North County LGBTQ Resource Center, delivered remarks promoting an event Sunday, Aug. 29, in recognition of International Overdose Awareness Day.

Seibert, an Encinitas resident, emphasized that in addition to the underground fentanyl threat, many addictions, overdoses and deaths stem from prescribed opioids.

More than 93,000 Americans lost their lives to drug overdoses in 2020, a 30 percent increase over 2019, according to the NCJA leaders.

“Drug-related deaths have more than tripled since 1990 and prescription drug-related overdoses comprise the majority of those deaths,” Seibert said. “We are here today to call attention to the opioid crisis gripping our nation and our community.

“We are here today to hold our leaders accountable, to call on our community to pay attention, to become educated and to be vocal in advocating for much-needed policy changes.”

Acevedo said the LGBTQ community is particularly vulnerable to the dangers of drug addiction and overdoses. More focus is needed on services and prevention, he said.

“We see the youth that come through our door,” he said. “We see youth who are suffering from trauma, from homelessness and from drug addiction and dependence. We also know that the numbers are stark for LGBTQ youth, who are three times more likely to abuse prescription drugs than their heterosexual peers.”

The NCJA’s second annual commemoration of International Overdose Awareness Day is scheduled from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 29, at Encinitas Community Park, 425 Santa Fe Drive.

The gathering will offer education, training and resources through partnerships with the San Diego Harm Reduction Coalition, Acadia Health, Brothers of Surf and other groups.

At the event, families can honor the lives of loved ones lost to drugs by contacting www.ncjusticeallies.org. Also, there will be a “Healing through Expressive Arts” experience featuring spiritual counselor and life coach David Lesinski.

Organizing the awareness day is an effort sponsored through the awareness initiative, which focuses on educating the community on addiction, overdose, harm reduction and stigmas associated with drug dependency and addition.

“I stand here as a white suburban mother who has lost her son,” Nava said in Tuesday’s conference. “But I stand with all of the mothers in urban and tribal communities who have been the target of the war on drugs.

“I recognize your pain and I stand with you. Your communities were criminalized, sent to prison due to addiction, a medical condition. ...

“Today, 75 percent of all overdoses are due to a synthetic analog of opioids called Fentanyl. The street drug supply is poisoned.”

Sadly, Nava said, the rate of overdose in Encinitas is higher than the countywide average.

To fight the trend, residents need to be trained in how to prevent overdoses, particularly through the availability of drugs such as naloxone than can reverse the symptoms of an overdose.

“We call on our community leaders — Encinitas, Oceanside — all of our coastal North County communities to step their game up,” Nava said, shortly before succumbing to tears during a reporter’s interview.


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