FDLE report: opioid-related deaths down in first half of 2023

by | Jul 9, 2024

Attorney General Ashley Moody announced a decline in opioid-related deaths in the the first half of 2023, with a 10 percent decrease in such fatalities, attributed to coordinated state efforts and aggressive anti-fentanyl measures.

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody announced Tuesday that the state has seen a significant decline in opioid-related deaths.

According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Drug Identified and Deceased Persons 2023 Interim Report, published this month, the first half of 2023 saw a 7 percent drop in total drug-related deaths, a 10 percent decrease in deaths caused by fentanyl, and a 10 percent reduction in opioid-related deaths compared to the same period in 2022. The reported figures mark the third consecutive report showing a decline in such deaths.

“We’re seeing results. I am cautiously optimistic about the report that we are announcing today,” said Moody. “It is still tragic in the sense that we are talking about death, and the number of deaths of Floridians … But I’m proud to say that in our fight, Florida is getting it right.”

Broadly speaking, the report states that Florida reported 117,361 total deaths during the first six months of 2023, with 7,412 involving the presence of drugs. The state recorded 3,640 opioid-related deaths, and 2,783 opioid-caused deaths. Moreover, deaths involving prescription drugs fell by 10 percent, with at least 86 percent of fentanyl occurrences determined to be illicitly obtained. 4,241 individuals died with one or more prescription drugs in their system, reflecting a 10 percent decrease, or 485 fewer deaths compared to the year prior.

Moody credited the decline to a coordinated effort between state agencies, local law enforcement, and community programs, noting Florida’s leading position in fentanyl seizures as a key factor.

“Florida has taken a novel and aggressive approach, and we are seeing results,” Moody said.

The Statewide Assistance for Fentanyl Eradication (SAFE) program, backed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, has been instrumental in these efforts, Moody asserted. The program provides resources and funding to local law enforcement, enhancing their ability to conduct comprehensive operations against fentanyl trafficking. Advanced surveillance and intelligence gathering have also contributed to these successes.

The Attorney General also attributed public awareness campaigns in educating Floridians about the dangers of opioid use and the risks associated with fentanyl as a factor in the downtick of deaths. The distribution of Narcan (naloxone), a medication that can reverse opioid overdoses, has also been expanded across recent years, with first responders, law enforcement officers, and the public granted enhanced access to the life-saving medication.

Despite the progress, Moody acknowledged that the state still faces significant challenges.

“We are heading in the right direction, but we are still dealing with an incredible amount of deaths here in Florida,” she said. “With our aggressive approach, not just in the criminal court but also through community support and educational initiatives, we are seeing positive signs. However, we must remain vigilant and proactive in our efforts.”

Moody seized the opportunity to criticize federal border policies and claimed that the opioid crisis in Florida is exacerbated by the influx of illicit drugs, particularly fentanyl, flowing into the United States from Mexico. She lambasted what she called a ‘lack of enforcement’ in preventative measures, arguing that the failure to secure the border has allowed cartels to profit immensely by smuggling deadly drugs into the country.

She subsequently called for stricter enforcement of existing laws to curb the entry of these substances and reduce the associated death toll.

“It’s as simple as following the law,” said Moody. “If we just follow the law on the books, and not create all these breakdowns in the border and implementation of unlawful policies, we wouldn’t see this.”


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