The City of West Hollywood and Safe West Hollywood Community Coalition are hosting a Chemsex Town Hall on Wednesday, February 12, starting at 7pm, at West Hollywood City Council Chambers, 625 N. San Vicente Blvd. The discussion will focus on sex and substances abuse in connection with meth, GHB, cocaine, and ecstasy, otherwise known as chemsex.
Chemsex involves using drugs to enhance sex by increasing desire and reducing inhibitions. Chemsex can be dangerous and involves serious risks for an individual’s sexual health, such as contracting HIV and other STDs.
The Town Hall will feature a panel discussion and question and answer session. The goal is to facilitate a dialogue between concerned residents, public health professionals and health advocates on Chemsex, meth and other sexual health issues. A “Meth Report Card” will also be released at the event showing the extent of crystal meth addiction in West Hollywood to underscore the need for more intervention and resources designed to prevent addiction.
The Town Hall will be moderated by council member John Duran with co-moderator Alexis Sanchez, Assistant Program Manager with the Institute for Public Strategies (IPS).
“West Hollywood has a population that is more than 40 percent LGBTQ,” said Duran in a city press release. “We know that men who have sex with men are at disproportionate risk. The reality of Chemsex, the consumption of substances to facilitate or enhance sexual activity, comes with risks that can be deadly.”
“So proud of the work of the Safe WeHo Community Coalition in our advocacy for the creation of a Meth Town Hall,” Sanchez posted on her Facebook timeline. “This event will focus on ‘chem-sex’ and will hopefully be the start of a larger conversation around methamphetamine use in the LGBTQ+ community and in West Hollywood as a whole. The coalition also is working on some key initiatives around meth data with long term goals such as the creation of a sobering center to work as a liaison into harm reduction and treatment and diversion from the criminal justice system.”
The panelists include: Lello Tesema, MD, MPH, LA County Department of Public Health; Miranda Adriana Ramirez, Friends Community Center; Tom Pardoe, Director, Producer, Teacher; Melissa McCracken, Breathe Life Healing Center; Jason De Puy, Sober Drag Queen.
The panel will be asked a variety of questions, including:
- What are signs of meth use?
- How can we tell if someone is engaging in Chemsex?
- How can friends and family support someone they think might have a meth use disorder?
- What part do dating and hookup apps play in Chemsex and ease of access to meth?
- What are some of the barriers that keep people from seeking treatment?
The Meth Report Card was developed by the L.A. County Department of Public Health at the request of the Safe West Hollywood Community Coalition (SWHCC), a grassroots community coalition formed during the spring of 2019 with the goal of reducing meth use, meth-related overdoses, and meth-related fatalities.
Both the Meth Report Card and the Town Hall are part of a five-point Action Plan developed by the SWHCC as a response to a recent survey of nearly 1,600 people at two major events in West Hollywood over the past five years. More than 70% of survey respondents indicated that meth use at community events, bars and clubs is a “pressing issue” for the City.
The surveys were collected by IPS, a public health agency working in West Hollywood and a co-sponsor of the Town Hall, at #BOOM!, a New Year’s Eve gala, and #SIZZLE!, a carnival area within the L.A. Pride Celebration.
“There’s a perception that with the nation in the midst of an opioid epidemic, methamphetamine use went away or decreased”, said Sanchez. “Our community studies show that meth use continues to be prevalent in West Hollywood. Cross contamination of meth with fentanyl is a growing problem that leads, to spikes in fatal overdoses
The Action Plan also includes advocating for the following harm reduction strategies:
- Greater community access to Naloxone, which reverses a drug overdose. Naloxone kits will be distributed at the Town Hall to anyone willing to undergo a 10-minute training, which will take place immediately after the Town Hall. Naloxone (also called Narcan) is a nasal spray that can restore normal breathing to someone that overdoses on heroin or opioids.
- Funding for syringe services programs in West Hollywood. Syringe services programs have been operating in California for more than 30 years. These programs not only provide people with sterile syringes but also health education, referrals to drug treatment, housing and other vital services.
- Creation of a sobering center, which is a place for people who are experiencing meth-induced psychosis to safely recover. Public health officials say sobering centers are less costly than jail or emergency rooms for people who need long term treatment.
“The City of West Hollywood supports a wide array of direct services including substance use, recovery, and health and mental health services and we have a responsibility to engage in honest conversations about trends in our community that can lead to dangerous consequences,” Duran added. “Talking with one another about Chemsex, reducing stigma, and raising awareness will help promote behavior change and harm reduction.”
The Safe West Hollywood Community Coalition is working to decrease community harm from methamphetamine through education, policy initiatives, and harm reduction events. The Coalition is open to anyone committed to helping improve life in West Hollywood. Contact Alexis Sanchez for details ([email protected]).