Drug overdoses are on the rise in Pasco County and local health and law enforcement officials are working to educate residents to reverse the deadly trend.
According to the Florida Department of Health in Pasco County and the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, the county experienced a 71% increase in overdose-related deaths in 2020 compared with 2019. Deputies responded to 1,491 overdose cases last year, which resulted in 268 deaths.
A DOH-Pasco news release reports that the rise in overdoses is not just a Pasco problem, but an issue being dealt with throughout the nation. More than 81,000 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States in the 12 months ending in May 2020. That is the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a 12-month period, according to recent provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The release also states that synthetic opioids including fentanyl appear to be the primary driver of the increases in overdose deaths, increasing 38.4% nationwide over the past year. CDC research reports that 37 of 38 U.S. jurisdictions, including Florida, reported increases in synthetic opioid-involved overdose deaths. And 18 of those jurisdictions, including Florida, reported increases greater than 50%.
To combat the rise in overdoses and deaths, individuals can go to https://www.cdc.gov/rxawareness/information/index.html to learn about prescription opioids and their dangers. Information about naloxone, a medication designed to reverse opioid overdose, can also be found on the CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/naloxone/index.html. Information about local treatment options and access to naloxone can be found at https://isavefl.com/.
The effort to lower the number of overdoses is being led by a number of organizations, including DOH-Pasco, the Pasco Sheriff’s Office, Pasco County Schools and others.
Pasco County received $638,400 from the CDC’s Overdose Data to Action Grant in September 2019 to assist in decreasing the opioid epidemic in the area. A press release states that DOH-Pasco, the Sheriff’s Office and Pasco County Schools hired an opioid epidemiologist as part of the Florida Epidemic Intelligence Service Fellowship Program to combat the epidemic.
The partnership allowed for the Sheriff’s Office’s Behavioral Health Intervention Team, which also partners with BayCare Behavioral Health, to connect individuals to treatment services. The CDC’s Rx Awareness Campaign, which will be on billboards and bus wraps throughout Pasco County to increase knowledge and awareness, has also been implemented as a result of the partnership.
DOH-Pasco, the Sheriff’s Office and the Alliance for Substance Addiction Prevention are working to host a virtual information town hall on opioid misuse and provide education on medication safety measures, the press release states.