Morning Report: A One-Woman Mission to Stop Opioid Deaths - Voice of San Diego

News UNVEILING THE UNSEEN

Morning Report: A One-Woman Mission to Stop Opioid Deaths

The race for district attorney is getting vicious, Republican activists pick their gubernatorial candidate and more in our daily digest of news.

Beth Herman, aka “The Narcan Lady,” gives about 75 people a week the overdose-reversing drug naloxone. / Photo by Kinsee Morlan

A quick note from Managing Editor Sara Libby: We’ve made some changes to how the Morning Report is created and produced, which means it will reflect more of a team effort each day as opposed to the work of a single author. Our longtime Morning Report scribe Randy Dotinga will still be contributing. There will no longer be a Saturday Morning Report, so make sure you’re signed up for the Politics Report and What We Learned This Week to get your weekend fix of news and analysis. 

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Naloxone has been hailed as a critical tool in the fight against opioid addiction, but it’s not without controversy.

In a new story, Kinsee Morlan profiles Beth Herman, a retired nurse who since last summer has been setting up next to the region’s only clean syringe exchange program to hand out samples of naxolone, or Narcan, a drug that can quickly reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. The drug users know her as the “Narcan Lady.”

While the opioid crisis hasn’t hit San Diego as hard as it has other places, more than 200 people are dying every year from overdoses. Advocates of an approach to drug addiction treatment called harm reduction say San Diego should be doing a better job of getting naloxone into the hands of drug users, treatment centers, sober living homes and more.

So what’s not to like about a drug that can save lives?

One recent study raised the question of whether naxolene might actually increase opioid use. Knowing an antidote is nearby, drug users could engage in riskier behavior.

In the meantime, state Senate Republican leader Patricia Bates has introduced several bills this session to raise awareness of opioid addiction and provide better warning labels. One bill targets student athletes, who are at higher risk of injury, as a population in need of more education of the risks.

“Many minors are prescribed opioids and may not necessarily even know they are in the opioid family,” said Bates, who represents part of North County, told Voice’s Sara Libby.

Elsewhere in the Sacramento Report, reporter Ry Rivard reflected on the California Public Utilities Commission’s criticism of government-run energy, otherwise known as community choice aggregation, or CCAs. The president of the California Public Utilities Commission appears to be worried that the lack of central regulatory oversight could create chaos, but, as Rivard writes, “CCAs are subject to some rules created following the energy crisis” of 2000 and 2001.

Contributor Ruarri Serpa also took the pulse of the state’s 76th Assembly District, currently held by Rocky Chavez, who’s running for Congress. Coastal North County has long been a Republican stronghold, but this is the first in several election cycles that Democrats have put up a candidate.

The Race for DA Is Getting Vicious

Geneviéve Jones-Wright, left, and Summer Stephan. / Photos by Vito Di Stefano and Jamie Scott Lytle

Even when asked to say something nice about the other, the district attorney candidates recently packed criticisms within pleasantries.

But the Politics Report this weekend highlighted an interesting, and previously private, moment between the two women, suggesting they didn’t always despise each other.

On NBC 7’s “Politically Speaking,” interim District Attorney Summer Stephan quoted from a letter that Geneviéve Jones-Wright sent two years ago in the aftermath of a contentious community meeting over racial profiling. Jones-Wright had commended Stephan, a Republican, for being graceful under fire and encouraged her to keep going.

Jones-Wright is a deputy public defender and a Democrat running for DA as a reformer. She pledged in a recent ACLU survey not to seek the death penalty.

Over on the podcast, hosts Scott Lewis, Sara Libby and Andrew Keatts considered a recent DA debate that Lewis moderated. During one of the tenser moments, Stephan suggested that Jones-Wright stay in the public defender camp and rise through that chain of command. She questioned Jones-Wright’s experience and leadership and likened her attempt to lead the region’s prosecutors to the “Kardashian effect.”

To which Jones-Wright replied: “It is completely demeaning and is utterly appalling that another professional woman who professes to stand with women would compare another professional woman to a person who leaked a sex tape.”

The Union-Tribune reported that Stephan’s campaign held a press conference Friday on the heels of a new website attacking Jones-Wright as the “anti-law enforcement candidate.” Jones-Wright’s campaign called the website “lies” and “a shame.”

Also on the podcast: Attorney and community activist Omar Passons talked about his bid for county supervisor. He highlighted, among other things, his plan for getting teens and adolescents to work through fully subsidized transportation. He also wants free preschool for 3-year-olds.

California GOP Splits on Gov, Senate

Republican businessman John Cox from Rancho Santa Fe failed to secure the GOP nomination for governor this weekend at the party’s convention in San Diego. He had more support than Republican Assemblyman Travis Allen, but couldn’t lock down the required 60 percent of the vote.

“California Republicans now head into a critical election next month divided between the two candidates for governor,” writes the Sacramento Bee.

Republican candidates for the Senate seat currently held by Sen. Dianne Feinstein are also struggling to gain traction.

“If Republicans fall short in capturing one of those two November slots next month, which members of both parties say is a strong possibility, it would apparently be the first election where there was no major party candidate for both the Senate and governor races since 1914,” notes the New York Times.

One of the Senate candidates, a neo-Nazi, was removed from the convention, “kicking and dragging an Israeli flag on the ground,” reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

State Republicans have been pulled in two directions in recent years, a fact that was on full display at this weekend’s gathering. Some, like former Assembly GOP leader Chad Mayes, believe the party needs to show more empathy and move closer to the center, in the mold of former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Others, like Allen, think the party needs to take a more hard-line approach.

“These so-called Republican-lites that are pandering to Democrat policies and politicians are why Californians are now registering as decline-to-state in every-increasing numbers,” Allen said of moderate Republicans, according to the Times.

A good example of the tension: The convention included a packed session where lawyers offered advice on how to challenge the state’s so-called sanctuary policies; yet before one of the endorsement votes, the party played a video highlighting women and minorities in the party — an acknowledgment to win over a diverse constituency.

What’s on Deck for the Week

  • Voting for the June 5 primary begins Monday at the Registrar of Voters, and primary ballots will soon be in the mail. Political ads have already hit TVs and mailboxes.
  • On Wednesday, we’re hosting our next member coffee at the La Jolla Riford Library, 7555 Draper Ave., from 9 to 10:30 a.m. Come say hey.
  • Bates, the Senate Republican leader, is joining forces with San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan to host a town hall in Carlsbad on opioid abuse. It’s from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Ruby G. Schulman Auditorium.
  • One thing that’s not happening this week: The much-anticipated environmental review of the Fifth Avenue Landing project as scheduled, the Union-Tribune reported. But Port commissioners continue to hold closed-door sessions to talk about price and terms of any agreement for the five-acre site of a proposed $300 million hotel. The city would like the property for the expansion of the Convention Center.

In Other News

 California National Guard members have begun arriving in San Diego, as part of an agreement between California and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol to help monitor the border. (KPBS)

The director of choral studies at San Diego State University is suing two former music students who he claims defamed him in connection with an alleged student affair, the Union-Tribune reported. Voice’s Kinsee Morlan reported two weeks ago that former coworkers and students of that professor, Patrick Walders, had come forward with stories of how they said he inappropriately wielded influence.

The last group of Central American asylum-seekers, who attracted international attention thanks to President Donald Trump, have crossed into the United States through the Port of Entry, but there’s no guarantee they’ll stay here. Voice’s Maya Srikrishnan recently wrote about the perilous journey involved in getting here, and why Central American asylum-seekers fleeing gangs and domestic violence might have a lower-than-average shot of their claims being granted. (Union-Tribune)

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is suing a San Diego Albertsons for allegedly barring its employees from speaking in Spanish. (Associated Press)

The criminal investigation into Rep. Duncan Hunter’s campaign finance spending won’t deter these conservative voters, even though there are two other Republicans in the race. (KPBS)

San Diego will be getting nonstop Southwest Airlines service to Hawaii, pending regulatory approval. That may take months. (NBC 7)

Juxtaposition of the Day

Attorney General Jeff Sessions will be in town Monday for a press conference with the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement on “immigration enforcement actions of the Trump administration,” according to City News Service.

Also on Monday: The Welcoming San Diego program, a partnership between the city, Chamber of Commerce and the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp., will host the first of five public forums aimed at making immigrants and refugees feel safe and welcome in the community.

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