April 13, 2024 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

City of West Hollywood Will Hold A Substance Use and Harm Reduction Town Hall Forum

Discussion Will Cover the Crisis of Fentanyl Overdoses, Emerging Danger of Xylazine

By Dolores Quintana

The City of West Hollywood is set to host a crucial event aimed at addressing substance use and harm reduction. The Substance Use and Harm Reduction Town Hall Forum will be held in partnership with APLA Health, the Institute for Public Strategies (IPS), and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Substance Abuse Prevention and Control (SAPC) program. Scheduled for Wednesday, August 2, 2023, at 6 p.m., the Town Hall Forum will be held at the City of West Hollywood’s Council Chambers/Public Meeting Room at 625 N. San Vicente Boulevard. 

The event is open to the public and free of charge, but RSVP is requested in advance via Eventbrite at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/substance-use-town-hall-tickets-672584617697. Attendees can take advantage of limited validated parking in the adjacent Five-Story West Hollywood Park structure.

The forum will also be accessible to a broader audience through WeHoTV. The broadcast will be available in West Hollywood on Spectrum Channel 10. It can be streamed on the City’s WeHoTV YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/wehotv) and on Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, and Roku platforms by searching for “WeHoTV.”

The primary focus of the Substance Use and Harm Reduction Town Hall Forum will be on overdose prevention, with specific attention given to substances like fentanyl, methamphetamine, and xylazine. Notably, xylazine is commonly known as “tranq,” a non-opioid veterinary tranquilizer that has emerged as a contributor to overdose deaths in the United States.

This Town Hall Forum aims to promote an open and constructive conversation about the substance use and overdose epidemic. It will adopt a non-judgmental, drug-forward, and sex-positive approach to ensure that healthcare providers and substance users have a safe space to discuss these critical issues.

The event will feature a keynote presentation by Dr. Siddarth Puri, Associate Medical Director of Prevention of Substance Abuse Prevention and Control at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LA County Public Health).

Additionally, the Town Hall Forum will include a panel discussion with notable experts and advocates:

  • Isabella Rodriguez, Program Manager, Los Angeles County Department of Health Services (LA County Health Services), Harm Reduction Division
  • Neil Prehmus, Addiction, and Substance Abuse Counselor
  • Timothy Zembek, Program Coordinator for the Syringe Services Program, Being Alive
  • Jimmy Palmieri, Community Advocate and City of West Hollywood Human Services Commissioner

Darwin Rodriguez, Program Manager at the Institute for Public Strategies, will be the panel discussion moderator.

The urgency of addressing fentanyl use will also be highlighted during the Town Hall Forum. Fentanyl, an addictive and deadly synthetic opioid, is significantly stronger than heroin and morphine. In Los Angeles County alone, accidental fentanyl overdose deaths have witnessed an alarming increase of 1,280% from 109 deaths in 2016 to 1,504 deaths in 2021. Illicitly manufactured fentanyl is often used as an additive in counterfeit pharmaceuticals like Xanax and Adderall and street drugs like methamphetamine, cocaine, and heroin. The danger of fentanyl lies in its stealthy inclusion in other substances, leading people to unknowingly consume it.

Moreover, the Town Hall Forum will shed light on the emerging presence of xylazine as a dangerous substance. Often used as an additive in certain substances, xylazine is frequently used in combination with other drugs like cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin. Xylazine can severely slow down breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure to dangerous levels. Unlike with fentanyl, naloxone (Narcan) is ineffective at reversing a xylazine overdose, making it even more perilous.

Those seeking further information about the Substance Use and Harm Reduction Town Hall Forum can contact Derek Murray, City of West Hollywood Social Services Program Administrator, at (323) 848-6478 or dmurray@weho.org. Individuals who are Deaf or hard of hearing can call TTY (323) 848-6496.

in NEWS
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