County of Marin - News Releases - Prescription Drug Abuse Awareness

For Immediate Release
March 03, 2016

Progress Made on Prescription Drug Misuse in Marin

Deaths and dosages both lower than previous years, according to new data

San Rafael, CA – New data shows a sharp downward trend in narcotic prescription drug dosage within Marin County’s MediCal population over the past few years, which is encouraging news for Marin County and a community coalition aimed at reducing prescription drug misuse and abuse.

KeynoteKeynote speaker Erin Marie Daly addresses the 2015 RxSafe Marin conference. Her younger brother died of a heroin overdose.
The grassroots coalition RxSafe Marin, affiliated and supported by the Marin County Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), reported that several of its initiatives might have contributed to the 41 percent decline in average narcotic prescription doses since 2013 among Marin’s MediCal population.

More detail will be presented March 8 when the Marin County Board of Supervisors will vote on a resolution honoring March as Prescription Drug Abuse Awareness Month for Marin County.

"RxSafe Marin coalition came together because we saw that this problem goes well beyond healthcare,” said Timi Leslie, RxSafe Marin Co-Chair. “We've been really fortunate to have law enforcement, educators, elected officials, and community members tackle this as a community health priority with the support of our Board of Supervisors."

Despite the reduction, Marin remains deeply affected by the epidemic of prescription drug misuse and abuse as do most California communities. Between 2004 and 2013, the number of narcotic pain relievers such as oxycodone and vicodin prescribed in Marin more than doubled as did related emergency room visits, treatment admissions for addiction, and prescription drug related overdoses. In 2012 and 2013 there were 27 accidental drug overdose deaths each year. There were 10 such deaths in 2014, the last year for which such mortality data is available.

"One of our first goals with RxSafe Marin is saving lives, but it’s too early to celebrate," said Marin County Public Health Officer Dr. Matt Willis. "We view each drug overdose death as preventable. We still see more deaths from overdoses than from motor vehicle accidents. One year of improvement isn't enough to call this a trend, and addressing prescription drug misuse remains one of our top public health priorities."

RxSafe Marin accomplishments include the development of communitywide prescribing guidelines adopted in emergency rooms and primary care clinics, social media campaigns to raise awareness about the risks of prescription drugs, and policy changes to prevent medicines from getting into the wrong hands. On February 9, the Supervisors voted to add controlled substances such as prescription medication its list of prohibited items in its Social Host Accountability Ordinance.

RxSafe Marin, which supports strategies between non-traditional partners, especially in law enforcement and health care, recently was awarded a Let’s Get Healthy California innovation award for public health practice.

However, the urgent need for reform remains. Kathy Koblick, Public Health Division Director, said community members can turn the tide on the epidemic by properly disposing of unused medication, locking up medications in homes, and talking to teens about the danger Marin is facing. National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day is April 30, and Marin HHS will be an active participate with other local agencies. Check the County’s online list of locations that accept unused and unwanted prescription medications.

“People are dying and becoming addicted. For each reported death from prescription drug misuse, there are hundreds of others who are struggling with addiction,” Koblick said. “This takes Marin communities pulling together to protect each other.”

Community feedback on the issue is welcomed at Follow RxSafe Marin on Facebook


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