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substance and addiction prevention branch

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​Partner Recommendations

The Overdose Prevention Initiative (OPI) works with state and local partners to address the complex and changing nature of the drug overdose epidemic through promoting:

  • Data collection, analysis, and dissemination
  • Substance use prevention programs
  • Harm reduction tools and strategies
  • Public awareness and education
  • Safe and effective prescribing and treatment practices

OPI shares the following recommendations and resources to statewide partners in response to increases in drug overdoses statewide. Each recommendation lists resources by partner type (public safety, public health departments, community-based organizations, health care providers and settings, harm reduction organizations, medical examiners and coroners, and public health and forensic laboratories). Identify your partner type and review the resources for  local overdose prevention and response implementation.  For questions, please contact us at

  1. Increase the distribution of naloxone.
  2. Promote overdose prevention education.
  3. Expand equitable access to treatment for substance use disorders.
  4. Intervene early with individuals at the highest risk for overdose.
  5. Improve detection of drug-related overdose outbreaks and facilitate a timely and effective response.

Recommendation #1: Increase the distribution of naloxone.

Public safety, public health departments, and community-based organizations:

Get naloxone

Distribute naloxone

  • Apply to the CDPH statewide standing order to distribute naloxone legally. Review the FAQs (PDF) and terms and conditions to determine if your agency should apply.
  • Give naloxone to people who use drugs and their family and friends. Both intranasal (into the nose) sprays and intramuscular (into the muscle) injections of naloxone are highly effective and available in easy-to-use options. With a fentanyl overdose, two or more doses of naloxone may need to be given.
  • Promote California's Good Samaritan lawwhich protects those giving emergency medical care at the scene of a medical emergency, including giving naloxone. 
  • Develop strategies to ensure naloxone kits and overdose prevention education and training are available and accessible to all community members.
  • Learn more about California’s naloxone access options (PDF), and view the naloxone distribution training on CDPH’s naloxone webpage.

Recommendation #2: Promote overdose prevention education.

Increase public awareness:

Implement prevention policies and strategies:

Recommendation #3: Expand equitable access to treatment for substance use disorders.

Public health departments and community-based organizations:

Promote treatment to help those with substance use disorder.

  • DHCS California Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) Expansion Project aims to increase access to MAT, reduce unmet treatment needs, and reduce opioid overdose related deaths through the delivery of prevention, treatment, and recovery activities.
  • Choose Change California is a DHCS statewide campaign dedicated to providing an easy pathway to get help for people affected by substance use disorder.
  • Shatterproof Treatment Atlas tool​ is a free public-facing website to help individuals with addiction and their family members locate high-quality addiction treatment.
  • Non-Emergency Treatment Referral Line (1-800-879-2772) is a DHCS referral line that connects people to local resources and services from their County Alcohol and Other Drugs Program Office.
  • Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator is a national treatment facility locator from SAMHSA.
  • SAMHSA's National Helpline (1-800-662-HELP [4357]) provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders.
  • California ED Bridge Program (CA Bridge) expands access to MAT through emergency departments (EDs), a critical access point for medical intervention.
  • California MAT Telehealth Providers is a list provided by CA Bridge that can be used by hospitals to arrange for telehealth MAT services for their patients.

Promote equitable access to treatment of substance use disorder.

Recommendation #4: Intervene early with individuals at the highest risk for overdose.

Individuals at higher risk for fatal drug overdose include people that mix different types of drugs or mix drugs with alcohol, who have had a prior non-fatal overdose, who use alone, are of older age, have a compromised immune system, and those experiencing rapid decrease in tolerance from situations such as hospitalization, incarceration, and detoxification.

Healthcare providers:

Provide optimal patient follow-up care after urine toxicology testing.

Provide treatment for substance use disorder.

Public health departments and community-based organizations:

Promote harm reduction for substance use disorder.

  • Partner with local harm reduction organizations and local overdose safety coalitions that provide overdose prevention and many other services for people who use drugs.
  • Link people to MOUD and to other health care services.
    • Contact the California SUD Non-Emergency Treatment Referral Line at (800) 879-2772 or (916) 327-3728.
    • Find treatment options through the California Bridge network, which operates at more than 200 hospitals statewide.
  • Purchase and distribute fentanyl test strips (FTS) to people who use drugs.
  • Link people who are at risk for drug overdose with care and track their retention in care. People who are at risk include those who have recently had their opioid use tolerance reduced (e.g., by being in jail or being involved in unmedicated SUD treatment) or who have recently experienced a non-fatal overdose.
  • Start and support peer navigator programs or use recovery coaches to support individuals at the highest risk of overdose.
  • Partner with syringe services programs in your jurisdiction or take steps to add syringe services to the work you do.
  • Destigmatize (PDF) substance use disorder by meeting people where they are.
  • Learn how to engage people who use drugs.

Recommendation #5: Improve detection of drug-related overdose outbreaks and facilitate a timely and effective response.

Public health departments:

  • Develop a drug overdose spike response plan. Use NACCHO's framework (PDF) for guidance. 
  • Improve rapid identification of drug overdose outbreaks, spikes, or anomalous (irregular) events. 
  • Use multiple data sources and build new partnerships to obtain overdose data, such as:
    • Non-fatal overdose data sources, including syndromic surveillance (i.e., tracking syndromes and/or symptoms of patients in emergency departments) (BioSense/ESSENCE), and emergency medical services.
    • Fatal overdose data sources, including medical examiner or coroner.
    • Other data sources, including poison control center and toxicology testing.
  • Monitor trends in the illicit drug supply, including geographic distribution and identification of adulterated (contaminated) drugs.
  • Monitor trends in overdose data, including:
    • Geographic distribution or clusters (e.g., households or neighborhoods).
    • Demographic characteristics (e.g., age, sex).
    • Drugs of concern (e.g., fentanyl analogs, new substances).
    • Circumstances surrounding overdoses (e.g., homelessness, previous emergency department visit for overdose, naloxone administration).
    • Implementing rapid detection surveillance to complement current/traditional surveillance systems.
  • Partner with coroner and medical examiner offices, health care facilities, and emergency medical services to obtain overdose data to inform a timely community response.
  • Partner with local overdose safety coalitions and harm reduction organizations to engage communities and reduce stigma.

Harm reduction organizations:

  • Implement drug checking services and drug supply surveillance.
  • Connect with people who use drugs to understand current drug supply trends.
  • Partner with public health departments and others to obtain and disseminate the latest information on local drug supply and overdose trends.

Healthcare facilities:

Medical examiners and coroners:

  • Partner with public health departments and harm reduction organizations to share overdose death data to inform a timely community response.
  • Screen specimens to detect drugs, including fentanyl, fentanyl analogs, novel synthetic opioids, and novel psychoactive substances:
  • Use a licensed physician or medical examiner for completion of death certificates; when lay coroners serve as certifiers, such certifiers should rely upon physician input and guidance (PDF).
  • Include all contributing drugs on death certificates using this reference guide (PDF)(1,473 KB)​.
  • Seek funding to promote teaching and learning opportunities that encourage career pathways into forensic science.


For questions, please contact us at

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