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Timely Grants Assist with Opioid Crisis

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Sierra Health Foundation awards funding to several Marin agencies

More than 2,000 people die from opioid-related deaths in California each year, and Marin County is not immune. It has averaged 215 drug-overdose fatalities over the past seven years, many opioid-related, ac­cording to the Marin County Department of Health and Hu­man Services (HHS).

But there is good news: More resources are on the way for local collaborative efforts. Several Marin agencies have received timely support in the form of state grants to achieve two goals: 1) help support ex­pansion of local activities to improve access to life-saving medications and treatment, and 2) to improve education about substance use disorders.

On June 20, the Center at Sierra Health Foundation an­nounced more than $16.4 million awarded to 120 or­ganizations at more than 270 sites/access points throughout California. The funds will go through the Medication Assist­ed Treatment (MAT) Access Points Project to ensure that the delivery of MAT facilitates positive treatment outcomes, safe management of care tran­sitions and long-term recov­ery for people with opioid and other substance use disorders.

Four Marin County orga­nizations were granted nearly $500,000 through the MAT Access Points Project. Marin HHS’ Behavioral Health and Recovery Services Division was awarded $184,000 for pro­gram development and to help fund a recovery coach position to facilitate care coordination between acute care mental health locations. Marin Gener­al Hospital received $100,000 to help fund educational ef­forts and support addiction program development, and Marin Treatment Center will use its $100,000 grant to as­sist justice-involved individu­als with opioid use disorder and expand treatment options for individuals with Medicare. Finally, Center Point, Inc., received $100,000 to expand access to MAT through their programming by engaging ad­ditional medical providers.

“These grants are such a wonderful opportunity for us to expand our treatment op­tions and to help align our goals and efforts with those of our local healthcare partners,” said Marc Hering, Executive Vice President of Centerpoint. “It’s a welcome shift to see addiction treatment become more of a central health care priority.”

In addition to the MAT Ac­cess Points Projects grants, Marin HHS has received a sim­ilar $135,000 MAT expansion grant to increase the availabil­ity of medications for addiction treatment in criminal justice settings. That grant facilitated the collaboration of custody health, adult drug court, Marin County public health and be­havioral health, Marin City Health and Wellness, and Bay Area Community Resources.

Marin HHS, the RxSafe Marin coalition, and various local stakeholders such as the Spahr Center and the Marin County Jail also have been the recipients of additional grant awards to reduce opioid abuse in recent years. The grants have led to the distribution of hundreds of narcan opioid overdose reversal kits through community trainings, local treatment providers, libraries, police, and directly to jail in­mates.

“All these grants fit into our larger goal of addressing the opioid epidemic locally through collective efforts that expand access to treatment, especially MAT,” said Dr. Jeff DeVido of Marin HHS, who contributed to the grant appli­cations for several of the local grant recipients. “Expanding access to treatment is one of our priority goals of HHS and RxSafe Marin, our local opi­oid coalition.”

DeVido said the other prior­ity goals are decreasing opioid supply through education about safe prescribing and good med­ication stewardship as well as expansion of safe disposal op­tions and decreasing the risk of overdose through expansion of the availability of narcan, the opioid overdose reverse medi­cation.

“It’s just really exciting to see the various local organiza­tions work together and coor­dinate our efforts to meet the local need,” said Rebecca Max­well, Behavioral Health Direc­tor at Marin General Hospital.

Brian Slattery, CEO of Marin Treatment Center, added: “Ad­diction is a treatable illness, and people with addiction and the treatment itself have too long been marginalized. These grants help to facilitate our ef­forts to bring individuals with addiction and addiction treat­ment in from the margins of health care.”

Through an innovative partnership between HHS Emergency Medical Services, Marin County Public Health, and Marin County Behav­ioral Health, those who have suffered a nonfatal overdose now receive targeted outreach from addiction specialists in the hopes of facilitating bet­ter connections between those individuals and treatment pro­viders.

Learn more about the MAT Access Points Project at ma­taccesspoints.org.

 

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Community

Opinion; How You Can Help Your Kid Readjust to In-Person Schooling

Over time, if our kids are not able to relax and de-stress, their bodies may also react with headaches, stomach aches, rapid heart rates, and an overall feeling of unwellness.   

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African American teacher assisting her students during class at elementary school and wearing face mask due to COVID-19 pandemic.

Our children are our most precious resource.  They hold in their hands the future of our community, our state, and our nation.  Likewise, we must hold them, too, under our protective guidance as we shape them into responsible and caring adults.

Now that most of our students have returned to school after an unusual, unpredictable and challenging 18 months due to COVID-19, many of our children are experiencing emotional upheavals due to – or exacerbated by — the pandemic. It is going to take some work to get children used to the stability, structure and predictability after more than a year of remote learning, disrupted schedules, isolation, little-to-no contact with peers and missed milestones.

Some of our children and their families have experienced food insecurity, income losses, illness and death due to COVID or related traumas.  These factors and many more have contributed to rising rates of depression, anxiety, hopelessness, decreased motivation, irritability, and an overall loss of learning.

As the school year begins, it is important to remember that each child is unique, and each one will experience their transition back to school differently.  According to the American Psychological Association (2021), 81 % of Gen Z teens (those between the ages of 13-17) have experienced intense stress associated with academic learning due to the COVID-19 crisis.  Rates of depression and anxiety in African American youth have increased also. Rates of suicidal ideation are climbing among Black youth as well but remains highest among LGBTQ+ youth across racial categories.  Moreover, in September 2020, over half of 11-17-year-olds reported having thoughts of suicide or self-harm.

Children experience stress differently than adults.  Usually, stress resolves itself within weeks for most youth. For others, though, the stress may turn into anxiety and influence the child’s thoughts and behavior.

Here are some things to look for:  changes in mood (irritability, hopelessness, frequent conflicts), changes in behavior (little time with friends, increase in video chatting or texting), loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, difficulty falling or staying asleep, and/or a change in appearance (personal hygiene).

Over time, if our kids are not able to relax and de-stress, their bodies may also react with headaches, stomach aches, rapid heart rates, and an overall feeling of unwellness.

So, what can you as a parent do to help your child?  Here are some recommendations.

  1. Get organized and plan for the school day.
  2. Talk with your student about any concerns that they may have returning to school. Even if school has started, ask and listen to how the school days have progressed.
  3. Try reaching out to another parent if your child is having difficulty making new friends. Plan a playdate or hangout time.
  4. Have a consistent and reliable schedule for waking up, going to bed, and for meals.
  5. Talk to your child about what they have to look forward to whether it’s the next school day or the end of the week.
  6. Listen to your students concerns and do not dismiss what you hear. Try to validate their experiences whether you can relate to them or not.
  7. Please follow CDC guidelines as well as your school district’s policies for staying safe in order to decrease the spread of COVID and its variants.
  8. Practice meditation. Just being still and quiet for three minutes will help to protect ourselves from stress, anxiety and depression upon waking up, at dinner or before bed.

Finally, we all must recognize the additional pressure placed on many of our students during the Black Lives Matter movement.  We must continue to actively advocate, support, empathize and listen to our children as they develop tools needed to face the challenges of life today.

Remember to keep the lines of communication open and reach out to a trusted expert such as your pediatrician or family care doctor.

Some licensed psychologists, including myself, offer screenings for depression, anxiety, hopelessness, stress, etc. as well as treatment with effective tools and strategies for success are available.

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Environment

Gov. Newsom Directs Nearly $138 Million to Local Fire Prevention

These funds have been allocated to 105 local fire prevention programs in communities across California.

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Penn Valley, California - 2020: Sign with Smokey the Bear reads Fire Danger Red Flag Warning today. Prevent Forest Fires. Firewise communities. The fire danger in Northern California remains high.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration, through the California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention (Cal Fire), has directed nearly $137 million in funding to local fire prevention.

Newsom approved $123 million of that funding in April for the Fire Prevention Grant Program, while the additional $14.8 million is being repurposed from grants from Cal Fire’s budget last year.

These funds have been allocated to 105 local fire prevention programs in communities across California.

“California and the western U.S. are facing an unparalleled risk of catastrophic wildfire in this new climate reality. That’s why @CAL_FIRE is directing nearly $138 million in grants to protect and build resilience in local communities,” Newsom tweeted.

Last year, Newsom cut roughly $150 million from Cal Fire’s budget.

According to Cal Fire, California’s wildfire crisis has burned about 1,968,326 acres, damaged or destroyed 3,050 structures and caused one confirmed fatality.

Newsom and others have claimed that climate change is contributing to the wildfires.

“These grants will further our work to tackle California’s forest health and wildfire crisis, funding community-based projects that build resilience to protect lives and property,” Newsom said in a statement last week.

Newsom also claimed that California is a leader on the national stage in the global fight against climate change. He made that statement last weekend when President Biden visited California to support him before the recall election on September 14.

“California is leading the nation with bold solutions to protect people and the environment, and the Biden-Harris Administration is proposing transformative investments to take on this existential crisis. With their dedicated partnership, we will continue to scale up our forest health and wildfire resilience efforts and ensure our communities recovering from wildfires have the support they need,” he said.

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Community

City Wins Case Against Local Real Estate Empire for Systemic Tenants’ Rights Violations

The September 1 decision represents a significant triumph for the city in a case brought several years ago against the owners of a prominent local real estate empire for systematically violating the rights of tenants at buildings their family companies own. 

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Barbara Parker

Alameda County Superior Court issued its final Statement of Decision and Permanent Injunction After Trial in People of the State of California and the City of Oakland v. Dodg Corporation, et al., a major win for the city in a case against a local real estate empire for systemic tenants’ rights violations.

The September 1 decision represents a significant triumph for the city in a case brought several years ago against the owners of a prominent local real estate empire for systematically violating the rights of tenants at buildings their family companies own. 

Not only must the defendants now comply with tenant protection and health and safety laws at all of their properties, but they owe the city and their former tenants significant redress, including financial penalties to the city and compensation to tenants, for their years of unlawful activity.

Said City Attorney Barbara Parker, “Victory in this case means that tenants in Oakland do not have to choose between their fundamental rights and having a roof over their head at any cost. No longer will businesses like Dodg Corporation be able to run roughshod over the people relying on them for shelter, and no longer will landlords feel the same impunity to outright ignore their legal obligations under our local laws.”

When the City Attorney’s Office brought the Dodg Corp. case in 2019, Oakland had long been facing an unprecedented housing crisis. By 2019, the housing crisis was disproportionately impacting low-income households, with nearly half of rental households in Oakland being rent-burdened (i.e., the household spends over 30% of its gross monthly income on rent).

Because of the skyrocketing rents, many low- and middle-income Oakland residents lived and still live under threat of displacement.

Prior to filing the case, the City Attorney’s Office had already worked with members of the City Council and the Mayor’s Office to pass various important laws focusing on protecting Oakland residents, particularly low- and middle-income residents. 

The City Attorney’s Office worked closely with the Council to adopt the Tenant Protection Ordinance (TPO) in 2014, which was amended in 2020 to strengthen the TPO’s protections. But for some abusive landlords, neither the 2014 TPO nor its recent amendments were enough to stop their illegal activities.

For years, the defendants in the Dodg Corp. case owned and operated approximately 60 residential rental properties in the City of Oakland (and owned at least 70 more properties in the city). The lawsuit addressed their flagrant disregard for the letter and spirit of the law with respect to six specific rental properties, where the defendants subjected Oakland residents to grave health and safety risks. 

The owners’ activities included renting units in substandard conditions — including units never intended or approved for residential use — to tenants who were predominantly low-income immigrants, among them tenants whose primary language is not English. 

This predatory business model allowed the owners to profit from renting uninhabitable or dilapidated units, including units that posed severe and imminent fire risks, to tenants who were desperate to find affordable housing and who often lacked the resources to take legal action to defend their rights. 

When tenants were displaced from their homes because their units were so unsafe, the owners further violated the law by neglecting to make relocation payments required by local law, according to a media release from the City Attorney’s Office. 

The case went to trial in early April of this year. In its September 1 decision, the court held that the defendant corporate entities and individual defendants Baljit Singh Mann and Surinder K. Mann exhibited a pattern and practice of violating the Tenant Protection Ordinance, and did so in bad faith, and that they created a public nuisance.

The verdict requires that defendants pay the City over $3.9 million in civil penalties for their egregious violations of tenants’ rights. Defendants must also provide long-overdue relocation payments to the dozens of tenants unlawfully displaced from the six properties at issue in this case. 

Going forward, defendants also may not operate any of their Oakland-owned residential properties in violation of local or state laws. This means the owners must promptly and competently address existing and future violations that jeopardize the well-being of their tenants.

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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