SACRAMENTO (KNX) - Three committees of the California Assembly held a joint hearing Wednesday to discuss solutions to the fentanyl crisis.
The Health Committee and the Public Safety Committee met with the newly-formed Select Committee on Fentanyl, Opioid Addiction, and Prevention for over five hours of testimony from experts, officials, and families affected by fentanyl.
Democratic Assemblymember Matt Haney of San Francisco, who chaired the hearing, says the impact of the drug transcends geography and partisanship. He says California is losing over 10,000 people to overdoses annual, and most of that is because of fentanyl.
“This is a drug that can kill a person with a very small amount,” Haney said. “If I had a pound of pure fentanyl in front of me and I cut it into 500 equal-size pieces, and I took just one of those little pieces and I cut it into 500 pieces, one of those little pieces, one 500th of one 500th of a pound, is enough to cause an overdose.”
Some lawmakers argued for stepping up police action in response to the crisis. But Stanford psychiatry and behavioral sciences professor Keith Humphreys says fighting back with law enforcement only makes sense if police use evidence-based strategies to deter street violence and open-air markets.
“I want to be very clear, that does not mean arresting every person in sight. There are evidence-based strategies that involve police working with communities, side by side with health professionals," he said.
Humpreys said lessening the crisis depends on a balance of health policy and law enforcement.
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