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State Assemblymember James Ramos introduces two bills to help address the fentanyl epidemic

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U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency
Photo of counterfeit Roxycodone pills seized by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

State Senator James Ramos spoke with KVCR’s Jonathan Linden to discuss his new bills AB-1627 and AB-1628, which he hopes will make a positive impact in addressing the fentanyl overdose epidemic.

Jonathan Linden: You're listening to 91.9 KVCR news, and I'm Jonathan Linden. In 2020, in California, there were 3,946 deaths related to fentanyl overdoses. As those numbers continue to rise across the state here in 2022, state assemblymember James Ramos, who represents Highland, San Bernardino, and Rancho Cucamonga, introduced last month Assembly Bills 1627 and 1628, which he hopes will slightly alleviate the issue. To start assemblymember, can you tell listeners more about these two bills?

Krishnia Parker
Office of Assemblymember James Ramos
Assemblymember James Ramos seen speaking at a January 2020 meeting of the Select Committee on Native American Affairs.

James Ramos: Certainly, fentanyl overdose continues to plague our region and the state of California, and the nation, certainly in the Inland Empire. I have family members who have come to me and told me about the different crises going on. And in particular, Steve Phil's a friend of mine who lost his daughter and daughter's boyfriend to a fentanyl overdose. Also, parents that have come to me about social media platforms, where some of their loved ones have bought fentanyl, on social media platforms that were then mailed to their house and their loved ones succumb to the fentanyl. So there has to be more of an advocacy awareness of the issues that are facing members in the state of California and, in particular, the Inland Empire. So, some of the AB bills that we have moving forward, AB-1627, deals with opioid overdose prevention. And so, this is more of a prevention, trying to be proactive to an individual that could be going through one of these situations. And that would be getting them the availability of a resource called Narcan that is able to be used in certain cases when people are suffering from an overdose, and specifically to fentanyl, that Narcan would be able to be used and get into their hands. Now there has to be some training along with that, and that's what AB Bill 1627 does; it calls on local law enforcement and county behavioral health (officials) to administer some type of training that then would be able to get Narcan in the hands of loved ones, of those that might be in a situation where that would have to be used. Also, have a bill, AB-1628 that deals specifically with social media platforms and accountability. Knowing that some loved ones have been able to purchase fentanyl on social media platforms, there has to be a stronger approach of holding social media outlets accountable. And their policies for selling illegal substances on their platforms, as well as other things. So, this bill would move to have accountability to make sure that there's areas that are posted of what could (and what) shouldn't be sold and what would be deemed illegal. But it also includes the Attorney General's office where these platforms and these prohibitions of what should be sold and what's not available to be sold, that there's some monitoring of it now being done by the social media platforms. And that was AB-1628, and that's going to be holding social media platforms accountable. And some would say, well, you know, social media platforms have freedoms. Yeah, they do, but when it comes to harming and people are losing their lives, I think we have a role to play in that as far as making sure that people understand what's truly being sold and bought on social media platforms.

Jonathan Linden: And how would the state go about enforcing these rules to companies like Facebook and OfferUp?

James Ramos: So right now, this bill would be calling for those protocols, those procedures, those protocols that online social medias have to have them submit it to the attorney general, and in the absence of any, they need to be able to be in compliance and have some type of protocols and prohibition of what's being sold and bought. That would then be turned over to the Attorney General. The Attorney General's office then would have those policies in their arsenal, in case someone in the public then buys something from there, they could actually now move forward in calling the Attorney General to look into those areas of the violation of those procedures themselves. This topic is something that needs to start to be discussed, bring awareness around, and advocate for stronger laws. The bills that we're introducing are meant to start the discussion; it's not meant to solve the problem at all. But let's start to discuss what's being sold, what's being bought on social media platforms, and who's responsible. If there's a platform, a protocol that social media people have, are they actually posting in an area that people can see? And who's holding them accountable? So, this opens up that whole dialogue and discussion, to how do we move forward to ensure that our loved ones that are going on the internet, searching the internet for different things, that what they're buying on the internet is things that are safe, and not to use the internet highway to sell illegal substance or even illegal activity over those platforms.

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Jeff Walters
Office of Assemblymember James Ramos
Assemblymember James Ramos seen doing the 'Opening Blessing' during a December 2021 discussion about changing the name of UC Hastings College of the Law.

Jonathan Linden: Yeah, and so with going back to the other bill 1627, would that mean the state would be providing free Narcan to people who participated in these trainings through departments of health or sheriff departments.

James Ramos: So right now, there is different nonprofits that are able to get Narcan in their possession. There's others that are out there, law enforcement, first responders, this would give the training to loved ones to those that are out there, and even those that might be partaking in this type of activity, to be able to be trained in Narcan use so that they would actually have that on their possession and on their person. So, the funding of that there is some different grant fundings for it, but we're looking to move forward in that aspect, in a pilot program, certainly within the area of San Bernardino County. But also, that bill calls on local law enforcement to be able to have personnel that are knowledgeable about drug overdoses to secure the scene for possible criminal prosecution of those that are administering these types of illegal substances. So, there's two components to that bill, one that has the training the resources there but also working with law enforcement to make sure that they're securing the scene to collect data that could be used to prosecute those individuals further on down the road.

Jonathan Linden: And I know for a fact, your fellow assemblymember, republican assemblymember Kelly Seyarto, out of Murrieta, has introduced similar bills pertaining to fentanyl. Have you tried to have any bipartisan talks about this issue with not just Kelly Seyarto but other Republicans in the assembly and state senate?

James Ramos: Definitely, the bills that we're talking about here today, they're authored by myself and co-authored by senator Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh, who's a Republican senator out of our area in San Bernardino. We had a press conference at the sheriff's department, I think, a couple of weeks back, and we're showing that this is a bipartisan effort on the bills that we're moving forward. So, this is definitely a bipartisan effort moving forward with senator Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh and myself.

Jonathan Linden: And Assemblymember Ramos, was there anything else you would like to share about these bills or other bills that you're working on?

James Ramos: I think these bills, in particular, start to move the dialogue as far as the discussion of what's truly happening with fentanyl in our communities. It's not meant to solve the issue, but it's meant to bring awareness and further the discussion around what's truly happening in our areas. We also have bills that move forward on Indian Health, Indian issues, tribal Native American issues, a couple of those deal with foster care, ICWA, and Cal ICWA, making sure that representation, that counties are following through with those laws where we're dealing with foster care kids, especially Native American foster care kids.

Jonathan Linden: All right, well, assemblymember James Ramos, thank you so much for taking some time to speak with me today.

James Ramos: Thank you so much for taking interest in the story.

Jonathan Linden is a reporter at 91.9 KVCR in San Bernardino, California. He joined KVCR in July 2021 and had previously interned for the station in the Spring of 2019. Outside of KVCR, Jonathan also interned for KALW in San Francisco, KFI in Burbank, and Radio HCJB in Quito, Ecuador.