The Orange County Board of Supervisors approved on Tuesday, Aug. 8, a $1.7 million appropriation to enhance the Orange County Sheriff’s Department’s fentanyl prevention and enforcement efforts.
The funding will be split into two uses: $1.3 million will go toward adding a third deputy to the Above the Influence education program over the next five years, and the remaining $400,000 will be spent on OCSD’s Highway Interdiction Team (HIT).
Donald P. Wagner, Third District supervisor and board chair, brought the item to the board’s agenda. In a news release from OCSD, Wagner said the situation surrounding fentanyl is at a “crisis point” in California.
“While Sacramento refuses to address the issue, I will continue to be proactive in the fight against fentanyl,” said Wagner. “This funding to educate our youth and prevent drugs from coming into our community will save lives.”
OCSD’s six-week Above the Influence program teaches fifth- and sixth-graders in county schools how to avoid substance experimentation and substance-use disorders. Above the Influence is taught by the OC Sheriff Community Engagement Team, staffed by two deputies and a sergeant.
The curriculum instructs students why young people choose to use substances, the dangers and risks of various substances such as vaping and fentanyl, how to read medication labels, how to avoid peer pressure, and more.
The program reached 37 schools during the 2022-2023 school year and graduated 3,000 students, according to the release.
County Sheriff-Coroner Don Barnes spoke about the importance of education in prevention efforts.
“I am grateful for the opportunity this funding from Chairman Wagner provides to expand this important program and effectively reach more students,” said Barnes. “The work of the Community Engagement Team undoubtedly saves lives.”
The funding for HIT, which specializes in disrupting the trafficking of contraband into the county, will be used to provide an additional vehicle and drug-detecting K-9, contraband-locating equipment, and TruNarc. TruNarc is a handheld device that “provides on-site analysis of narcotics and unknown substances.”
“Fighting the narcotics epidemic takes a multi-faceted approach that includes enforcement, education and rehabilitative programs,” Barnes added. “I am extremely proud of the work we are doing on all fronts, and look forward to the impact we will see from the expansion of these essential teams.”