Supervisor Valero hosts town hall meeting on fentanyl

Panel discussion at Dinuba church will be followed by student presentation, Narcan training

Supervisor Eddie Valero is hosting a town hall discussion with various officials at the New Life Community Church in Dinuba on Jan. 13 to keep the public informed on the issues surrounding the opioid drug fentanyl. (THANANIT on Adobe Stock)
Supervisor Eddie Valero is hosting a town hall discussion with various officials at the New Life Community Church in Dinuba on Jan. 13 to keep the public informed on the issues surrounding the opioid drug fentanyl. (THANANIT on Adobe Stock)
Darren Fraser
Published January 9, 2024  • 
12:00 pm

DINUBA – Tulare County Supervisor Eddie Valero is hosting a town hall on the fentanyl epidemic, where various public officials will do their part to educate the community on the issues surrounding the dangers of the opioid. 

The event, which is open to the public, takes place at 9:30 a.m. at the New Life Community Church in Dinuba on Jan. 13. Valero said the idea for the town hall came from Brain Willems, a coordinator at Celebrate Recovery, a 12-step program to help facilitate recovery. At the meeting, Williams will be on hand to demonstrate the use of Narcan.

“He (Willems) expressed interest in hosting an event related to this issue since it is an issue plaguing the community,” said Valero. “I took that on and ended up making some calls.”

According to Valero, during his time as a county supervisor, he’s noticed several issues with fentanyl, one of them being the distribution of the drug along Highway 99. He went on to describe a recent case near the highway involving two individuals who had enough fentanyl to “kill everyone in the county.” 

The incident occurred on Oct. 5, 2023. Five individuals were arrested in Earlimart and the Tulare County Sheriffs recovered $1.7 million in drugs.

“We’ve seen a few deaths from our younger student population,” Valero said. “I would say this is an issue that knows no boundary lines. It’s definitely an issue here in the state.”

Valero said he invited administrators from local schools to the conference to discuss the issue of fentanyl on campuses as well.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) maintains drug overdose statistics on its website. In 2022 – the most recent full year data available – there were 57 opioid-related deaths in Tulare County. CDPH does not identify deaths due to specific drugs but the department concluded that synthetic opioid deaths “may be largely related to fentanyl.” The annual age-adjusted mortality rate for 2022 was 12.3 per 100,000 residents – an increase of 50% from 2020.

CDPH also found that overdose deaths were highest among Native Americans and Alaska Natives.

PANEL DISCUSSION

Valero posted the town hall itinerary on his Facebook page. Following remarks from Dinuba Mayor Maribel Reynosa and New Life Pastor Marc Isaac, Valero will speak about the importance of fentanyl awareness and community involvement. This will be followed by testimony from a fentanyl overdose survivor.

After that there will be a panel discussion titled “Understanding Fentanyl and Its Impacts.” Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward will discuss the legal implications and the efforts to combat distribution. Tulare County Fire Chief Charlie Norman will provide insights on fentanyl-related incidents and emergencies. Dr. Natalie Bolin, Tulare County Mental Health Director, will address the impact the drug has on mental health and also support services available. 

Further, Dinuba Police Chief Abel Iriarte will discuss enforcement challenges and strategies. The discussion concludes with Dinuba Fire Chief Greg Chastain discussing response protocols and collaborative efforts.

After the discussion, there will be a Q&A with the panelists.

Two Dinuba High School students will give a presentation on fentanyl awareness from the youth perspective. The event will conclude with Celebrate Recovery’s Willems providing training on the use of Narcan.

With this discussion, Valero said his main goal is to educate the community on the issue.

“We need to inform the community about this pressing issue,” he said. “To be able to understand the issue and how it is plaguing our community and what we can do as community members to rise up.”

He added, “To engage in these tough conversations but also to know there is a support system to help those who are going through trying times. A community is a wraparound system. We want to see people live their lives to the fullest.”

Darren Fraser
Reporter