Opioid Epidemic Continues to Ravage Fla. Towns

Opioid Epidemic Continues to Ravage Fla. Towns

News Jun 13, 2017

June 13—PANAMA CITY—Five years ago, opioid overdoses were so infrequent in the area, first responders almost stopped testing for them.

Last year, 49 people died.

That's 49 families—one for almost every week of the year, who lost a loved one and, according to Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford, a 113 percent increase over 2015, when 23 people died.

Based on the numbers, 2017 isn't looking any better. Corky Young, the Division Chief for Emergency Medical Services, projected Bay County will have more than 800 dispatches for overdoses this year, not including calls for unresponsive patients.

"The gravity of this is incredible," Young said during a meeting Monday at the Department of Health. "We are doing anywhere from 10 to 20 a day. I have found professional heroin users dead with needles in their arm. The strength of the stuff out there is incredible. It's all ugly."

The question posed at the Recovery Oriented Systems of Care (ROSC) meeting—which was attended by local politicians, mental health professionals, law enforcement, the Health Department and other stakeholders—was what is the community going to do about it.

"We have to figure out how to fix it and turn it around," Young said.

The thing that changed, according to Ford, is the pill mills closed. About 80 percent of opioid addicts started with a prescription painkiller before it spiraled out of control, and they used to be able to get their fix with a prescription at the pill mills. When legislators and law enforcement cracked down, people were forced to find other methods to get high, leading to the current epidemic.

It's not just Bay County. Florida has declared a state of emergency and appropriated millions to try to find solutions. Nationwide, drug overdoses have become the leading cause of death for people under 50.

To get a handle on the problem, members of the ROSC task force are hoping to change the way the community sees and interacts with addicts, transitioning from a punitive model to one that pushes rehabilitation.

Continue Reading

"We need to think of it as long-term as a chronic disease," said Dr. Mark Stavros of Gulf Coast Addiction Medicine. "There is a recircuitry of the brain."

Among the long-term goals discussed at the meeting were using state and federal funding to help bring more treatment options to the area, including medical treatments buprenorphine (also known as suboxone) and Vivitrol, as well as equipping law enforcement agencies, who are often first on the scene, with Narcan.

They also are hoping to learn what is and is not available locally through a process called sequential intercept mapping over the next year.

Some changes already are being made—Bay County Jail now offers Vivitrol to departing inmates and sheriff's deputies now carry Narcan—but mostly people are bracing themselves for the impact.

"The trauma is real," said Mike Watkins, the chief executive officer of Big Bend Community Based Care. "The trauma in their wake is real. There is the immediate—their condition, the criminality and the medical—but there is also the reverberation."

___ (c)2017 The News Herald (Panama City, Fla.) Visit The News Herald (Panama City, Fla.) at www.newsherald.com Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Katie Landeck
Adapt Pharma, the Narcan manufacturer, is providing the drug to college campuses to combat the deadly opioid epidemic.
Chicago-area doctors will soon give patients Narcan along with their opioid prescriptions to prevent fatal overdoses.
First responders were commended for saving the lives of several heart attack victims, emphasizing the need for civilians to also know how to perform CPR and use an AED.
Children and young adults with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes could be up to seven times more likely to die from sudden cardiac arrest than those who don't have diabetes.
The 'Flying Eye Hospital' features exam equipment and an operating room and travels to developing countries to treat patients with blindness or eye diseases.
Time is brain, and the Lucid System, which will eventually be tested in ambulances, could save valuable time when diagnosing and treating stroke victims.
The Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency awarded hospital workers, first responders, and the coroner's office with a $5 million grant to purchase naloxone kits.
Paytan Fairchild donated kits containing blankets, teddy bears, and other comfort items to local hospitals, fire, and police stations to give to children who survive car accidents.
NEMSIS data helps identify disparities in who’s getting prehospital pain control.
The Arkansas Department of Health awarded 15 hospitals for providing defect-free stroke care since July of 2016.
Since Puerto Rico's major drug manufacturer was destroyed by Hurricane Maria, hospitals and pharmacies are running short on important solutions like saline and opiates.
The urgent care facility is also part of the county's reformation of its lacking mental health care system.
Freespira helps patients breathe properly to combat panic attacks and trials have shown a 64% drop in patients' emergency department costs.
Exeter Fire Department paramedics were horrified when they found 75-year-old Nancy Parker, who later died from lying in her own feces and urine for five days, neglected by her family.
Militants bombed the mosque before opening fire on the worshippers inside, blocking all exits and attacking ambulance crews arriving on scene.