County of Marin - News Releases - Opioid Epidemic

For Immediate Release
November 17, 2017

Battling Opioid Epidemic with Courage, Honesty

RxSafe Marin initiative discusses life-saving measures at community forum

San Rafael, CA – Marin County’s Public Health Officer has laid down a direct challenge to people affected by the epidemic of prescription drug misuse: help make the seriousness of opioid addition an honest and open public discussion, because every recovery story is inspiring in its own way.

Susan Kim speaks about the loss of her son to an opioid overdose.Susan Kim, whose son died of an opioid overdose, is among the Marin residents speaking openly about the epidemic of prescription drug misuse.
“To solve this epidemic we need to see addiction as a disease and treat it,” said Dr. Matt Willis during a community meeting hosted by the award-winning RxSafe Marin initiative. “Shame and stigma drives the subject underground, and it’s much more difficult to control. We’re fortunate to have people around us who have been directly affected step forward and share their stories. Talking openly helps remove the shame.”

According to Dr. Jeff DeVido, Chief of Addiction Services for the County of Marin, “People struggling with opioid addiction in Marin have more treatment options than ever. Still, only a minority of people who need that treatment are getting it. We can do better. Marin can do better.”

Willis and DeVido were among the speakers at RxSafe Marin’s free community forum November 15 titled “Preventing Opioid Misuse: Saving Lives with Medications” at the Marin County Office of Education in San Rafael. Collectively, RxSafe Marin sees every local overdose death as preventable, and strategies implemented to save lives are achieving traction.

Despite all the effort of RxSafe Marin partners in the community, the fact remains that the leading cause of accidental death in the county is drug overdose, accounting for more deaths annually than motor vehicle accidents.

“Our goal is zero overdose deaths, and today was an important step toward that goal,” Willis said at the forum as a representative from the Marin County Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). “We’re working to make naloxone, the medicine that reverses an overdose, more available across the county. The epidemic of prescription opioid misuse may have its roots in health care, but the solutions have to engage the entire community.”

RxSafe Marin has been at the forefront of making naloxone (also known as Narcan) more available countywide. Naloxone blocks the effects of opioids during an overdose and restores breathing. All police agencies in Marin are carrying naloxone in squad cars these days. Since receiving the training in early 2017, police officers in Novato and Fairfax have reversed overdoses with naloxone. “It’s working. We’re already saving lives by distributing naloxone more widely,” DeVido said.

Novato parent Susan Kim lost her son, Trey, in 2015 to a prescription opioid overdose. “Naloxone should be easily available to anyone just like a needle exchange or passing out condoms,” Kim said. “People are going to do what they're going to do, regardless so we need to help them help themselves. Help a bad situation not get worse. Lives will be saved.”

RxSafe Marin has reported significant progress toward goals of safe prescribing and safe medication disposal. The November 15 forum was an important step forward toward one of Marin’s biggest remaining challenges: treatment for addiction and overdose.

As part of its community outreach efforts, RxSafe Marin hosts community forums on topics related to the opioid epidemic. The next will be in March 2018, also at the Marin County Office of Education. It will be called “Healthy Pain Management” and address topics such as understanding pain, non-opioid alternatives to treatment for pain, and navigating your options when treating pain.

RxSafe Marin builds on the work of community activists, Marin HHS, the Marin County District Attorney’s Office, the Marin County Public Defender’s Office, Marin County Office of Education and many other stakeholders. One of the first such coalitions in the state, the effort recently received an innovation award from the California Department of Health and Human Services.  

Community feedback on the issue is always welcomed at or 415-473-6731.


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