At this point, many of us have been touched directly by the Opioid Epidemic. Too often we are faced with the devastating loss our friends, family, and neighbors to the scourge that is an opioid overdose. It is a community health crisis, and the increased prominence of Fentanyl in street drugs has only heightened the devastation.
On August 31st, Jacksonville will join the nation in recognizing International Overdose Awareness Day. Together, we will raise awareness of this issue in our community, outline what is already being done to fight it, and share how each of you can make a difference.
Just last year, opioid-related deaths increased by over 5% in the State of Florida. Here in Duval County, there were 480 opioid-related deaths in just the first 6 months of 2021.
91% of these deaths were caused by Fentanyl.
The numbers are scary, and there are a lot of things that we as a community need to continue to do to fix this problem. But there is some good news. My administration and our community partners have worked hard the last seven years to launch a series of programs and initiatives that have directly prevented overdose deaths in our community.
We continue to invest heavily in our First Responders and Emergency personnel. We have spearheaded an increase of almost 35 million dollars to the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue (JFRD) Budget. Thanks to this increase and additional funding to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, we have ensured that every single emergency vehicle has a rescue kit and the capability to treat opioid overdoses.
Equipped first responders are crucial to preventing opioid deaths in our community. But often, there are a critical few minutes between when an individual begins experiencing an overdose, and when 911 finally arrives. Thankfully, there are a variety of things you can do to help fight the opioid epidemic.
You can take action by:
These are not just empty words and promises for a better tomorrow. Already, we have seen the lives saved by community members and first responders alike.
Twice a month, JFRD, in coalition with DrugFreeDuval, host a free training course
. Through this course, community members can learn how to recognize the signs of an overdose, how to administer Narcan, and what laws are in place to protect those who step in. Since 2018, over 8,000 Narcan kits have been distributed, with 75% of these kits going to high-risk zip codes.
Because of the availability of Narcan in the community, and the effort to train community members on what to do in the event of an overdose, the frequency of Narcan being administered prior to
JFRD arrival on scene has increased by 413%.
The City has also partnered with Local, State, and Federal agencies to help sponsor Drug Takeback events and locations. In May of 2022, the DEA Drug Takeback day safely recovered and destroyed 4,300 pounds
of expired or unused prescription medication from Jacksonville and the surrounding counties.
We are also working hard to ensure that our citizens living with opioid addiction are afforded the opportunity to choose recovery. Project Save Lives was founded in part by the City of Jacksonville. They provide a variety of recovery services to individuals facing addiction in our community. Since 2017, over half the people identified as eligible for services in our community chose to pursue them. Of the 5,000 people that consented to be treated, only 9 died.
When we look at the 580 annual deaths in Duval County, it is crucial to know that treatment and support works.
That is why my administration is continuing to fund this service and are allocating $1 million
from this year’s budget.
Jacksonville has been a national leader in the fight against the opioid epidemic. We are seeing our hard work pay off through decreases in calls to first responders, increase in use of Narcan, and a decrease in the amount of people going to the hospital for an opioid overdose. We still have a long way to go, and it requires the buy-in of the community to help end this epidemic. We continue to fund the tools, and together we can work together to raise awareness of resources available, learn how to spot addiction, and learn how to intervene to save a life.
To those in our community living with addiction, know that your community cares about you. One death from overdose is one too many, and we must work together to help end this epidemic.