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Mayor Gloria, Attorney General Bonta Lead Roundtable Discussion on Fentanyl Enforcement


October 18, 2023


SAN DIEGO – As part of a statewide effort to combat the distribution of illicit fentanyl, San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria and California Attorney General Rob Bonta invited federal, state and local leaders to a closed-door roundtable discussion on strategies and action being taken to address the growing problem of the dangerous street drug and its impact on families and communities.   

“This is a problem that demands a unified response from all segments of our society – government, healthcare, law enforcement, and the community. Today, we are standing united to stop the misery that fentanyl is causing in San Diego and across California,” said Mayor Todd Gloria. “In San Diego, we are sending the message to dealers that preying on our children, our families and people experiencing homelessness will not be tolerated -- and we will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.” 

“California is all-in when it comes to addressing fentanyl and protecting the safety of our communities,” said Attorney General Rob Bonta. “Fentanyl is a threat to our communities as it is cheap, potent and very lethal. Fentanyl can be disguised in common drugs, and just a small amount is enough to potentially kill a user. We urge Californians, especially our youth, to steer clear of this lethal drug. We will continue working with law enforcement partners to address this crisis and provide our investigative resources and legal support to help stop the flow of fentanyl into our state and keep it out of our communities.” 

Mayor Gloria issued an executive order in November 2022 that directed action and cooperation with law enforcement to address the illicit fentanyl crisis, in hopes of stemming the addiction and overdoses that has claimed the lives of more than 400 San Diegans in 2022 – and more than 800 countywide. Since the order was issued, there has been a 63% increase in arrests of fentanyl dealers in the City of San Diego.  

Additionally, SDPD has added three canines that specialize in fentanyl detection to help locate and identify fentanyl during stings and arrests.  

Under the Mayor’s order, the City is also prioritizing several initiatives funded by proceeds from a legal settlement with opioid manufacturers, including:  

  • 66 shelter beds with drug treatment services in partnership with the County of San Diego 
  • Laser-detection devices SDPD will use to test for fentanyl in the field 
  • A jail-diversion program that directs users into treatment 

Lastly, Mayor Gloria championed two state bills this year, AB 367 by Assemblymember Brian Maienschein (D-San Diego) and SB 44 by Sen. Thomas Umberg (D-Santa Ana), to enhance penalties on dealers when their actions result in someone’s death. Neither bill passed this year, but Mayor Gloria is committed to continuing to seek state action on this issue in 2024.

Many of the partners at the roundtable meeting discussed the success of Team 10, San Diego’s regional overdose task force that includes local and state law enforcement, the District Attorney and several federal agencies, including U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Drug Enforcement Agency, Homeland Security Initiative and others.

Attorney General Bonta announced that his office will join the Fentanyl Abatement and Suppression Team, or FAST, which was created by the U.S. Attorney’s Office last year.

County and healthcare leaders shared public-health strategies around drug and overdose treatment, while the Medical Examiner’s office confirmed that deaths from illicit fentanyl continue to be the No. 1 cause of death for people between the ages of 18 and 45, as well as among people experiencing homelessness.

Assemblymember Brian Maienschein and representatives from the California National Guard shared the state’s increase last month of National Guard patrols at the border to combat fentanyl smuggling and reported that the National Guard helped intercept more than 28,000 pounds of fentanyl at the southern border last year alone – a 567% increase over the previous year.   

What others are saying: 

“I appreciate Mayor Gloria’s tenacious leadership in addressing the fentanyl epidemic. Eliminating the destruction fentanyl is causing in our community will take a coordinated effort,” said State Assemblymember Brian Maienschein. “I am encouraged by the robust discussion today and look forward to continuing the fight with Mayor Gloria, the Attorney General, local and state leaders, the healthcare sector and law enforcement so that no more families are ripped apart by this deadly drug.”

“Fentanyl continues to take the lives of our community members every day. We can only solve this crisis by working together in a multiprong approach, through the accountability of public safety and the implementation of public health strategies, including education,” said San Diego County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Nora Vargas. “One level of government cannot tackle these issues on their own, which is why today’s conversation is so important. We need to put all of our resources together to expand our efforts to combat illicit fentanyl once and for all.”

“Combatting the deadly impact of illicit fentanyl on our community remains a top priority for my office, and today’s strategic roundtable brings closer collaboration between the City, County, State, Federal and other stakeholders,” said San Diego District Attorney Summer Stephan. “We are doubling down on holding the heartless fentanyl drug dealers accountable, but stopping the death toll requires implementation of a long-term plan that addresses prevention through education and awareness, expansion of treatment access and enforcement and prosecution. Today’s meeting brings us closer to these critical goals.”

“San Diego is at the epicenter of fentanyl trafficking, which is now the number one killer of people between the age of 18 and 45. It is imperative we increase education and awareness of the threats posed by fentanyl,” said San Diego City Councilmember Marni von Wilpert, chair of the Council’s Public Safety Committee. “With Mayor Gloria’s partnership, we are investing in public service announcements and a robust and targeted education campaign that will engage the public, especially in our most affected communities.”

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office commits our full might to blocking fentanyl entry and distribution through our district,” said U.S. Attorney Tara McGrath. “We are all in. And we embrace our partnership with every single person who is willing to join this fight – from law enforcement officials and community leaders to educators and health care providers. We will persist until we have broken the stranglehold that this drug has on our county and country.”

“Drug cartels, such as the Sinaloa and Jalisco cartels, are driving addiction and fentanyl poisonings in the United States,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Shelly S. Howe. “Fentanyl dealers are a top priority for the DEA and our law enforcement partners. Today’s roundtable demonstrates that local, state and federal agencies are working together to combat the fentanyl crisis at every level. Our joint mission is to hold fentanyl dealers accountable and to save lives.”

"In the last two years, we've seen a nearly 90% increase in the number of patients coming into our emergency departments due to fentanyl use,” said Chris Howard, president and CEO of Sharp HealthCare. “Over that period, we've also seen more than a 30% increase on the inpatient level. As discussed in our roundtable, it’s clear that more action is needed countywide to reduce harm from fentanyl and prevent recidivism. From a healthcare perspective, increasing the number of residential treatment beds would mean that patients, especially the unhoused, could be discharged directly to residential programs to receive the care they need to fight their addiction. And deploying a no-cost fentanyl test strip program here in San Diego would give people the ability to test for the presence of fentanyl in a drug and reduce the number of inadvertent exposures to the substance." 

Complete list of roundtable attendees: 

  • San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria 
  • California Attorney General Rob Bonta 
  • State Assemblymember Brian Maienschein 
  • County Board of Supervisors Chair Nora Vargas 
  • San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan 
  • San Diego County Sheriff Kelly Martinez 
  • San Diego City Councilmember Marni von Wilpert 
  • San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit 
  • Major Gen. Matthew Beevers, California National Guard 
  • U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California Tara McGrath 
  • Sidney Aki, director of field operations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection 
  • Chad Plantz, Special Agent in Charge, Homeland Security Investigations 
  • Shelly Howe, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration 
  • San Diego County Chief Deputy Medical Examiner Dr. Jonathan Lucas 
  • Dr. Luke Bergman, Director of San Diego County Behavioral Health Services 
  • Dr. Erik Berg, San Diego County Overdose Surveillance and Response Program   
  • Dr. Elizabeth Hernandez, San Diego County Director of Public Health Services  
  • Deacon Jim Vargas, President and CEO, Father Joe’s Villages   
  • Chris Howard, CEO, Sharp  HealthCare 
  • Marisa Varond, Executive Director, McAlister Institute