Coachella Valley Independent

Indy Digest: July 31, 2023

A couple of weeks ago, we published a story about DAP Health’s efforts to decrease the number of drug-related deaths in the Coachella Valley. (That piece is also the cover story in our August print edition.)

I talked to CJ Tobe, DAP Health’s director of community health and sexual wellness, who said that up to 350 lives had been saved by DAP Health’s harm-reduction program in its first 14 months; he based that figure on the number of people who reported back to DAP that they used Narcan/naloxone on someone who was suffering from a drug overdose.

DAP Health’s efforts here are badly needed—because opioid deaths statewide are up 121 percent over the last three years, according to our partners at CalMatters, via an explainer published last week. The primary reason for the increase: fentanyl.

From that aforementioned CalMatters piece:

While pharmaceutical fentanyl has long been used to treat severe pain, say, after surgery, cheaply manufactured illicit fentanyl has become a growing threat in large cities, rural communities and suburban neighborhoods. Oftentimes the harm lies in counterfeit prescription pills and party drugs that, unbeknownst to the user, are laced with fentanyl. And drug trends are ever-changing. What in the 1990s was an epidemic driven largely by people abusing prescription opioids, today is one where fentanyl can be mixed with other substances like xylazine, commonly known as “tranq,” a powerful sedative approved for veterinary use.

Citing the rise in overdose deaths and feeling the pressure to act, lawmakers introduced about three dozen proposals this legislative session and held special hearings. They want to answer the question: How can California prevent more overdose deaths?

If you want to better understand the opioid crisis, I highly recommend giving the CalMatters’ piece a read; it covers a lot of ground, with everything from stats broken down by county, to a recap of the aforementioned legislative proposals.

I’ll conclude by mentioning a part of DAP Health’s harm-reduction program that didn’t get a lot of ink/pixels in my piece: Making fentanyl test strips as widely available as possible. The CalMatters’ piece says: “It is impossible to know just by looking at a drug if it has been tainted with fentanyl. That is why health experts and harm reduction advocates have been pushing for the wider distribution of fentanyl test strips, which can help users detect whether fentanyl is present in their supply. And while some states ban these test strips—based on the argument that this instigates drug use—California promotes and distributes them for free.”

Kudos to the folks at DAP Health for all their harm-reduction work. They’re truly saving lives.

—Jimmy Boegle

From the Independent

Not-So-Thrilling Ride: Despite Some Fun Disney Nods, ‘Haunted Mansion’ Fails Due to a Sloppy Plot

By Bob Grimm

July 31st, 2023

Haunted Mansion features nods to the ride at every corner, and it is fun to see them onscreen. What’s not fun is the film’s patchwork, sloppy plot that basically goes nowhere and eventually becomes boring.

Good Garbage: Desert Compost Spreads the Word to Combat Expanding Landfills, Climate Change

By Charles Drabkin

July 28th, 2023

Over the past two years, the team at Desert Compost has opened three community-composting sites in Palm Desert and Palm Springs.

The Indy Endorsement: The Cat City Dog at Weenee Roadhouse

By Jimmy Boegle

July 29th, 2023

The Cat City dog came with avocado, tomatoes, red onions, jalapenos and freshly prepared bacon bits, all on a delicious bun. I added a little spicy mustard, took a bite—and was in hot dog heaven.

The Venue Report, August 2023: Los Tigres del Norte, Patti LaBelle, Uncle Kracker—and More!

By Matt King

July 31st, 2023

A survey of some of the Coachella Valley’s entertainment offerings in August 2023.

August Astronomy: Two Super Moons and the Perseid Meteor Shower Are Among the Month’s Highlights

By Robert Victor

July 31st, 2023

Late-night and early-morning morsels include prime moonless views of the Perseid meteor shower; a star masquerading as a satellite of Jupiter; a rich, star-filled eastern predawn sky; and a supersized Venus crescent rocketing up from the horizon day by day in late August.

Proudly Rated R: ‘Talk to Me’ Is a Well-Acted and Downright Horrifying Film for the Ages

By Bob Grimm

July 31st, 2023

Talk to Me is a creepy, sometimes funny and sometimes downright horrifying take on the possession horror genre that picks a dark path and sticks to it.

More News

The Biden administration has formed a new office to research and find better treatments for long COVID. CNN reports: “On Monday, HHS announced the formation of the Office of Long COVID Research and Practice to lead the federal government’s response to long COVID, a sometimes-debilitating condition marked by symptoms of COVID-19 that last weeks or months beyond the initial infection. It’s estimated that up to 23 million people in the United States have developed long COVID. In Monday’s announcement, HHS officials applauded the launch of long-awaited clinical trials for long COVID patients through the National Institutes of Health’s RECOVER Initiative. The initiative, launched in 2021, is a $1.15 billion nationwide research program aimed at better understanding, treating and preventing long COVID.”

Also from the Biden administration: a new plan to help people with student loans. CNBC reports: “The Biden administration has launched a beta application for its new repayment plan for federal student loan borrowers. The Saving on a Valuable Education, or SAVE plan, is an income-driven repayment plan that may cut many borrowers’ previous monthly payments in half, and will leave some people with no monthly bill. The U.S. Department of Education says borrowers can begin enrolling now in what it calls, ‘the most affordable repayment plan yet.’ … Instead of paying 10% of their discretionary income a month toward their undergraduate student debt under the previous Revised Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan, or REPAYE, plan, borrowers will eventually be required to pay just 5% of their discretionary income under the SAVE plan. Those who make less than $15 an hour won’t need to make any payments under the new option, the Education Department says.” Find the application here.

Reason No. 38,966 that Elon Musk is becoming increasingly terrible, via The New York Times: “X Corp., the parent company of the social media company (formerly known as Twitter), sent a letter on July 20 to the Center for Countering Digital Hate, a nonprofit that conducts research on social media, accusing the organization of making ‘a series of troubling and baseless claims that appear calculated to harm Twitter generally, and its digital advertising business specifically,’ and threatening to sue. The letter cited research published by the Center for Countering Digital Hate in June examining hate speech on Twitter. … The research consisted of eight papers, including one that found that Twitter had taken no action against 99 percent of the 100 Twitter Blue accounts the center reported for ‘tweeting hate.’ The letter called the research ‘false, misleading or both’ and said the organization had used improper methodology. The letter added that the center was funded by Twitter’s competitors or foreign governments ‘in support of an ulterior agenda.’ Imran Ahmed, the chief executive of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, said, ‘Elon Musk’s actions represent a brazen attempt to silence honest criticism and independent research.’”

Time magazine covers the story of a paralyzed man who can move and feel again, thanks to new technology: “A cluster of researchers surround 45-year-old Keith Thomas, their eyes fixed on his right hand. ‘Open, open, open,’ they urge, cheering when his fingers flutter out to mirror an image on a computer screen and again when they begin to curl back inward. Thomas, who was paralyzed from the chest down after a diving accident in July 2020, is able to move his hand again thanks to a cutting-edge clinical trial led by researchers from Northwell Health’s Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research in New York. Chad Bouton, a bioengineer at the Feinstein Institutes who is leading the trial, says he believes Thomas is the first human in the world to receive a double neural bypass, a technology that links his brain, spinal cord, and body in hopes of restoring both his ability to move and his sense of touch—even outside the laboratory.”

The Conversation examines what could be done to lessen the “pervasive threat” of sexual violence against female farmworkers: “Most often, sexual violence against women is committed by men in positions of power, such as foremen, farm labor contractors, farm owners and co-workers. Unfortunately, farm workers often buy into the myth that women bring sexual harassment on themselves. This belief makes it difficult for victims to get support. Immigrant women farm workers are vulnerable because of power imbalances in their male-dominated workplaces. Women represent 28% of the nation’s farm workers, making them a minority on many farms. Most are immigrants from Latin America, and many are undocumented. … Since one major driver of the threat of violence against female farm workers is the fact that many of them are undocumented, could expanding the national H-2A agricultural guest worker visa program be a solution?

And finally … Trader Joe’s is issuing yet more recalls of food that may include things that, well, are decidedly not food. NBC News explains: “For the third time in a week, a product at Trader Joe’s is being recalled—this time it’s the Fully Cooked Falafel because it ‘may contain rocks.’ Last Friday, the popular grocery store chain announced it was recalling two cookie products after it discovered they might also contain rocks. And on Thursday, it said its Unexpected Broccoli Cheddar Soup is being recalled in seven states because the product ‘may contain insects.’ The recall of the Fully Cooked Falafel affects the product in at least 33 states, the company announced Friday. All the potentially affected product have been removed from stores or destroyed, Trader Joe’s said. ‘If you purchased or received any donations of Fully Cooked Falafel, please do not eat them. We urge you to discard the product or return it to any Trader Joe’s for a full refund,’ the announcement said.” For the record: California is not on the list of states where the falafel was sold—but it’s on the list of states where the broccoli cheddar soup was sold.

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California’s Opioid Crisis; New Research on Long COVID–Coachella Valley Independent’s Indy Digest: July 31, 2023 is a story from Coachella Valley Independent, the Coachella Valley’s alternative news source.