Valerie Moore, Program Director of Round Valley’s Center of Healing Hearts, is concerned about a marked rise in overdoses since the year began. In a recent two-week period, Moore became alarmed when Round Valley saw five overdoses, all the victims under the age of 26.
Since the beginning of 2022, Moore told us “we are aware of 17 overdoses in which Narcan was used in Round Valley. However, nine have been confirmed/reported reversed by Narcan.”
Thankfully, no fatalities have been reported, Moore told us.
Recent efforts to train Round Valley residents on the use of Narcan to reverse opioid overdoses proved life-saving. During that spate of five overdoses, all of them were reversed with Narcan.
Mendocino County Sheriff Matt Kendall told us behind this rise in overdoses is a powerful synthetic opioid known as fentanyl, cheap to produce and used by drug dealers to cut other narcotics.
Almost every street drug is now being cut with fentanyl, Sheriff Kendall explained, which leaves non-opioid users vulnerable to its effects. Those most vulnerable to these overdoses are often habitual opioid users who take an extended break and then return to the drug with a significantly lower tolerance. Sheriff Kendall said these users overestimate the amount of drug they can safely ingest and too often succumb to the powerful synthetic opioid.
Starting in 2013, the United States has experienced what the CDC described as the “Third Wave” of opioid overdose deaths pointing towards fentanyl as the most significant factor.
Sheriff Kendall pointed out that as drug use and possession have become decriminalized, there have been no substantive policies or institutions to fill the gap and support those suffering from addiction.
Round Valley Indian Health Center is working hard to fill the gap Sheriff Kendall describes.
Moore is at the head of Round Valley Indian Health Center’s (RVIHC) efforts to mitigate these overdoses and educates Round Valley residents about the risks of opioids, the immediate treatment of the potentially-lethal overdoses, and the path to addiction recovery.
RVIHC has held six Narcan training in 2022 alone; one of the trainings hosted thirty participants. For any Round Valley resident seeking education around Narcan administration, Moore said anyone can come by the Health Center to be trained individually and receive Narcan to administer in an emergency overdose situation.
RVIHC’s addiction recovery program is known as Yuki Trails and it offers community members one-on-one counseling for substance abuse, one-on-one sessions with a psychologist or licensed social worker, and group counseling. Outside the counseling context, Yuki Trails offers classes such as Batterers Intervention/Anger Management, Motherhood and Fatherhood is Sacred, Alcohol Education and therapy groups, and a Medications for Addictions Treatment program.
Moore told us that Round Valley has created an opioid coalition that “focuses on substance use education, outreach and harm reduction services.” RVIHC’ has a “Circles of Care” program that works to build “behavioral health services capacity though supporting individuals in higher education as well as planning for a youth mental health department. Path to Wellness, a youth alcohol prevention program, and Native Way, a youth mentor program, work together to provide “the youth with the tools necessary to build healthy lifestyles.”
“One of the incredible things about the Round Valley Indian Health Center,” Sheriff Kendall said, “is that their services are for everybody, not just the tribe, but anyone that needs their resources.”
He remembered his father, “an old Irish guy” Sheriff Kendall called him, being invited with open arms to socialize and gather at RVIHC’s Senior Center.
RVIHC represents the best of Round Valley, Sheriff Kendall said. “When these small communities have to deal with these sorts of problems, there’s no clinical detachment,” he told us. “Nobody is going to solve this problem for us, I guess we got to solve it ourselves.”
If you are in the Round Valley area and need support for addiction, mental health, or general social-emotional needs, Round Valley Indian Health Center is always available. Call (707) 983-6181 for help today.