County of Marin - News Releases - Prescription Drug Misuse

For Immediate Release
September 29, 2015

Important Steps to Curb Prescription Drug Misuse

At October 20 meeting, Marin will roll out groundbreaking guidelines for doctors

San Rafael, CA – The battle against prescription drug misuse and abuse in Marin County is gaining a powerful ally: the prescribers themselves.

Dr. Matt Willis speaks at an RxSafe Marin conference in 2014.On October 20, a coalition of Marin doctors and other stakeholders committed to addressing prescription drug misuse will roll out a set of common standards for prescribing pain killers that have been a year in the making.

The event, “Saving Lives: Our Community in Action” will serve as the second annual meeting for RxSafe Marin, and new information will be brought to light about Marin County’s united effort to curb prescription drug misuse, which too often has been fatal – enough to categorize the problem as a local epidemic.

Developed in collaboration among the Marin County Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the RxSafe Marin Prescribers and Pharmacists Action Team, and the Marin Medical Society, the guidelines aim to improve patient outcomes and limit the risk of unintended harm when considering the use of opioids for the treatment of non-cancer pain.

“It’s remarkable to have physicians from across different medical groups come together around a shared concern,” said Dr. Peter Bretan, President of the Marin Medical Society. “We’re fortunate to have a physician community so dedicated to protecting our community’s health.”

Medications developed to improve health can sometimes cause harm, and Marin County Public Health Officer Dr. Matthew Willis said the new guidelines help clinicians and patients work together to decide on the best form of treatment.

“Should opioids be prescribed? If so, what is a safe dosage?” Willis said. “What is the best way to guard against dependence? What non-opioid treatments should be considered? These are questions every clinician should be asking.”

Willis will be joined by speakers who will present RxSafe Marin initiative successes, plans for future work, and never seen before data about prescription use in Marin County.

In 2013 and 2012 combined, 76 people died in Marin from drug overdoses, more than from breast cancer or automobile crashes, and most of those overdoses involved prescription drugs.

RxSafe Marin is a grassroots community initiative dedicated to saving lives and reducing harm from prescription drug misuse and abuse. Building on the work of community activists, Marin County HHS, the Marin County District Attorney’s Office, the Marin County Public Defender’s Office, Marin County Office of Education each have officials co-leading the initiative along with residents, youth, coalitions, pharmacists and health providers.

At the October 20 meeting, RxSafe Marin Action Teams will work with attendees to revisit strategies and identify ways to build capacity while continuing to change practices, policies and norms as a means of reducing misuse.

“We are already seeing the effectiveness of this collaborative effort,” said Dr. Grant Colfax, Director of Marin HHS. “We know that this initiative will be successful because of the leadership and commitment of our community. This event is an opportunity to take further action toward a healthier Marin for all.”

Community feedback on the issue is welcomed. Email


Dr. Matthew Willis
Public Health Officer
Health and Human Services

3240 Kerner Blvd.
San Rafael, CA 94901
(415) 473-4163
Email: Dr. Matthew Willis
Marin HHS website