(Photo Credit: The Palm Beach Post)
Has the opioid epidemic in our community gotten so bad that we need an “opioid czar?”
Unfortunately, the answer is yes.
In April, the Palm Beach County commissioners approved a plan to respond to the opioid epidemic across our region and Florida. Their plan calls for hiring three new staff members —including the opioid czar — and spending $3 million over the next two years to pay for local treatment efforts.
According to the Palm Beach Post, the commissioners learned:
“The scale of the epidemic is unprecedented, that the county is, at the moment, ill-equipped to cope with it and that it is getting worse.
“I’ve been doing this for 38 years,” said Alton Taylor, executive director of the Drug Abuse Foundation of Palm Beach County. “I’ve seen a lot during that time, but I’ve never seen anything like this. Its lethality is unprecedented.”
Some of the opioid-related facts are, according to the Post:
- There were 1,700 opioid-related calls to Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office for service in 2016.
- Between 2011 to 2016, heroin-related jail bookings soared by 2,803%.
- 216 people died of heroin-related overdoses in Palm Beach County in 2015.
To fight this epidemic, our community needs, according to the Post: money for a needle exchange, medication-assisted treatment, and detox and treatment beds for addicts without insurance.
Read more about the commissioner vote here.
The good news (if there is any on this topic) is that there’s a lot of focus on how to prevent more overdoses and stop the flow of these dangerous drugs into our community. Our county commissioners are certainly committed to this. So is our law enforcement: State Attorney Dave Aronberg and Sheriff Ric Bradshaw (along with many other police chiefs and line officers) have locked up and prosecuted many criminals responsible for scores of drug overdoses and running illegal drug treatment and sober house operations.
And yet, it sure feels like this problem is so big that we need even more leadership and resources to stop the spread of these deadly drugs.
So what more can our public officials do? And what can business owners, teachers and parents do?
Lastly, how can LPBC be involved in all of this?
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Email me here: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Noel Martinez is the Executive Director of Leadership Palm Beach County (LPBC).