- Florida’s Department of Health on Wednesday announced a new initiative to provide all 67 counties with kits of naloxone, a lifesaving opioid overdose response medication
- Florida has seen an extraordinarily high rate of opioid overdoses in 2022, including a series of nine deaths across four days in Gadsden County earlier this year
- State leaders in recent months have launched a series of programs to fight the state’s opioid epidemic, including Gov. Ron DeSantis’ CORE and Attorney General Ashley Moody’s ATLAS, both focusing on reducing the level of drugs entering the state
Coinciding with International Overdose Awareness Day yesterday, the Florida Department of Health announced an initiative to ensure readily available access to naloxone, commonly known by its brand name Narcan. Naloxone is an overdose response medication that could reduce thousands of substance abuse deaths across the state through its county health departments.
Through the initial phase of this initiative, 16 county health departments received 1,500 naloxone kits. The next phase of this initiative will expand naloxone distribution to all 67 county health departments in Florida.
The initial counties to receive kits include Baker, Bradford, Union, Franklin, Gulf, Gadsden, Gilcrest, Levy, Glades, Hendry, Hamilton, Hardee Jefferson, Madison, Lafayette, and Suwanee counties. This first set of counties correlates with those that have the highest rates of overdose, including Gadsden, which saw 9 overdose deaths occur over the span of four days in July.
“Addressing the opioid epidemic is a top priority for the state,” said Deputy Secretary for Health Dr. Kenneth A. Scheppke. “In 2021, almost 8,000 people in Florida lost their lives to drug overdoses, the highest one-year total ever recorded in our state.”
This initiative is the result of collaboration with the Florida Department of Children and Families through the Overdose Prevention Program, or iSaveFL, which facilitates the distribution of naloxone kits to families, friends, and caregivers of those at risk for an opioid overdose. These naloxone kits consist of two naloxone nasal sprays that can be administered even without a health care professional present.
In August, Gov. Ron DeSantis launched the Coordinated Opioid Recovery program – the first of its kind in the nation – to provide comprehensive and sustainable care to those affected by substance use disorder.
Further, a public health and safety alert was also deployed by the Florida Department of Health on Jul. 8 to ensure Floridians remain aware of common signs of overdose.
“Biden’s border crisis has caused a massive infusion of drugs coming into our state,” said DeSantis upon the launch of the program. “This year we increased the penalties for individuals trafficking drugs in our state, and now we are giving Floridians the tools they need to break the substance abuse cycle. Substance abuse can affect any family at any time, so from education to law enforcement to treatment we are going to make sure that Floridians can take advantage of this new addiction recovery model.”
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a record 107,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses and poisonings last year. Illicit fentanyl toxicity was the leading cause of mortality for American individuals between the ages of 18 and 45 in 2018, according to a review of CDC data published in December 2021.
In July, State Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo, First Lady Casey DeSantis, Gadsden County Sheriff Morris Young, Commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Mark Glass, and Secretary of the Department of Children and Families Shevaun Harris collectively brought attention to the influx of counterfeit drugs entering Florida at a higher rate than years prior.
Through investigation, the group stated that the drugs collectively originate south of the border before being shipped to hub cities like Atlanta, then filtering to communities in North Florida.
Glass claimed that 30 percent of drugs going through lab testing protocols return counterfeit, indicating that a higher concentration of drugs entering communities poses an even bigger threat to public health and safety.
The influx of illicit drugs has led to a statewide fatal overdose count that comes close to matching 2021’s total number in just seven months.