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Opioid epidemic and drug abuse concept with a heroin syringe or other narcotic substances next to a bottle of prescription opioids. Oxycodone is the generic name for a range of opioid painkillers

Drug overdose is now the top cause of premature death in Napa County, the county’s Public Health Department says.

The Napa Opioid Safety Coalition hopes to stop the opioid epidemic, in part by educating people on the abuse of opioids — including those that are prescribed — at events such as the free town hall scheduled for Saturday at CrossWalk church in Napa.

“We want people to pause before they’re even given that prescription for opioids; whether it’s for themselves, or for their kids,” said Karen Relucio, head of the Public Health Department.

Participants can learn how to give naloxone — a life-saving medication that helps stop opioid overdoses — perform hands-only CPR, and store and dispose of opioid medications.

The coalition is offering a free lunch, raffle and giveaways of naloxone, medication disposal bags and medication lock devices. Health care providers can receive two hours of free, continuing medical education credits and learn how to safely prescribe opioids.

Health care experts, residents and leaders will speak on a panel about opioid abuse. Twenty vendors in mental health, health care and addiction recovery will be on hand to educate people about services that are available to them.

The Napa Opioid Safety Coalition is a group of health care providers, pharmacists, residents and professionals in public health, behavior health and law enforcement. The coalition will put on the event thanks to sponsors including the Napa County Public Health Department, St. Joseph-Providence-Queen of the Valley Community Outreach, Adventist-St. Helena Hospital and Partnership Healthplan of California.

The event will take place Saturday, June 15 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at CrossWalk Community Church, 2590 First St. Spanish translation will be provided.

English-speakers can register at bit.ly/2Kskn7V and Spanish-speakers can register at bit.ly/2KopaY5.

While Relucio says Napa County fares better than the state average when it comes to the opioid epidemic, she said the Public Health Department still sees many overdose reversals each month, thanks to naloxone.

Opioid overdoses caused four deaths, 13 emergency room visits and 19 hospitalizations in the county in 2017, according to California Department of Health data.

There were 797 opioid prescriptions per 1,000 Napa County residents in years 2010 through 2015, higher than the statewide average of 608 prescriptions per 1,000 residents, according to a lawsuit filed by the county against major pharmaceutical companies. The rate of Napa County residents prescribed the equivalent of more than 100 morphine milligrams per day was 36 percent higher than the statewide rate during that same time period.

The rate of county residents who were on opioids for 90 days in a row was 45 percent higher than the statewide rate from 2010 to 2013, according to the lawsuit.

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Public Safety Reporter

Courtney Teague is the Napa Valley Register public safety reporter. She can be reached at 707-256-2221. You can follow her reporting on Twitter and Facebook, or send her anonymous tip at: tinyurl.com/anonymous-tipbox-courtney.