New Early Intervention Program to Combat Drug-Related Deaths Launches in San Diego, Operated by Stepping Stone of San Diego
June 24, 2022
SAN DIEGO – Stepping Stone of San Diego today announced the launch of the StepIn program, a pilot program of early intervention, prevention and education aimed at LGBTQIA+ individuals who use recreational and prescription drugs in San Diego County.
More than 1100 San Diegans died from drug overdoses in 2021, about half of which were related to prescription and illegal opioids. Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is about 50 times as potent as heroin, is one of the biggest dangers. Earlier this year, there were 13 reported overdose deaths related to Fentanyl in a three-day span.
The LGBTQIA+ community is disproportionately affected by this epidemic. According to statistics, those who belong to a sexual minority are more than twice as likely to abuse drugs compared to their heterosexual peers. For this reason, the StepIn project will focus on this community for outreach, education and support.
The mission of the StepIn program is to meet substance users where they are and provide education, support, and harm reduction methods to improve their quality of life and reduce the amount of harm done by substance use.
Pam Highfill, Program Director of the Stepping Out outpatient program at Stepping Stone thinks this is a logical next step for the organization. “We have been here to help LGBTQ substance users in San Diego since 1976. We have residential, outpatient and sober living treatment options, but early intervention is crucial to keeping people alive until they are ready to make changes in their life.”
StepIn will offer substance users resources on how to get Naloxone (Narcan), a nasal spray that reverses overdoses caused by opioids, fentanyl test strips to determine if their drugs have been cut with fentanyl, and clean syringes. Additionally, our peer counselors can help them access resources for other needs such as housing, food instability and medical care. The goal is to help individuals solve whatever problems are putting them at risk for drug-related harm.
“President Biden has made early intervention and harm reduction a main component of this administration’s strategy to combat substance abuse and we are proud that we can step up and be a part of this,” said Highfill.
Anyone who wants to participate in the program can text the word MENU to 619-279-5480 and they will get a text in response that offers them a variety of options for help and support. StepIn is strictly an opt-in program and participants can access any of the resources available without judgment or conditions. The program runs through February of 2023.
About Stepping Stone of San Diego, Inc.
Stepping Stone was founded in 1976 in response to the unique challenges LGBTQ people face suffering from addiction. All of our programs continue the tradition of putting focus on at-risk communities. Alcohol and drug dependency further weaken a population that is already deprived of basic civil rights within society at large. The agency’s mission has been to create safe places where individuals can tackle the challenges of being gay and/or transgender, of being HIV positive, and of suffering from alcohol or drug addiction. Though specializing in the LGBTQ community, the program is open to all who can benefit from the environment and services offered.
Stepping Stone of San Diego, a 501c3 non-profit organization, operates a 31-bed residential treatment facility in City Heights. This location offers a three-to-six-month residential program, ongoing clinical therapy, HIV case management. An outpatient treatment program, Stepping Out, is located in North Park and is home to our First Things First program which is the starting point for many on their recovery journey. Stepping Stone also operates three sober living facilities in San Diego dedicated to those who need a safe, sober living environment.
For more information or to set up an interview, contact Pam Highfill at Stepping Stone at [email protected].