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We have all heard about it. We have all been affected by it.


Opioids and heroin and fentanyl…and other opioid synthetics…are hurting our people right here in North Florida. Hurting them as they struggle with addiction and overdose. Hurting them even to death.

According to Dr Valerie Rao, District 4 Medical Examiner’s Office, Duval County experienced a 131% increase in deaths attributed to drugs from 2015 to 2016 with the majority involving opioids or opioid derivatives.

The number of overdoses has skyrocketed also. Jacksonville Fire and Rescue data indicates that 9-1-1 calls have tripled over the past two years. Administration of naloxone (the life-saving opioid reversal drug) by first responders has increased nearly 400%. All of this has come at a cost to the department: nearly one-tenth of JFRD’s entire medical supply budget will be spent on naloxone this year. And here are budget busting figures:

  • In 2015, JFRD transported 1903 patients suspected as overdose at a cost of $1,895,388.
  • In 2016, JFRD transported 3,156 patients suspected as overdose at a cost of $3,143,376.

We are in a crisis…battling an epidemic. Right here in North Florida.


As a community coalition, Drug Free Duval (DFD) is uniquely positioned to facilitate a comprehensive process to address this health crisis. All parts of the public health continuum must engage: prevention. Intervention/Treatment. Recovery. As a community coalition with over 1000 members and 12 sectors, DFD put out a call to action to form a Task Force to dig deep in the data, create a logic model to identify the WHYs and the WHY HEREs in our area. Response has been strong: 75 individuals representing 12 sectors are led by Co-Chairpersons Jodie Graves, Pharm.D and Carol Motycka, Pharm.D who bring deep knowledge and best-practices to the process. The general Task Force not only approved the needs assessment, but brainstormed specific strategies that include measurable short-term, mid-term and long-term goals.

The Task Force has now divided into three committees: Healthcare Education and Training, Community Education and Training and Policies/Procedures. DFD is providing administrative support to each of the committees, and responsible for providing additional data, strategy information and contractual support as it becomes appropriate, along with recording the measurements established for each of the strategies.

There have been some astounding partnerships formed via the work of the Task Force, along with ground-breaking strategies that are catching national attention. One such strategy is focused on training peer specialists through a partnership with Jacksonville University and LSF Health, and providing these valuable resources to be on call with first responders who transport overdose patients to the hospital. Often, overdose patients check themselves out against medical advice, and the presence of a peer specialist can provide a bridge to get further help.

The Task Force has identified that both healthcare professionals and consumers need to Rethink Pain, and plan on implementing an educational campaign with those two targets to reduce the requests for and prescribing of addictive pain meds. Harm reduction is a vital part of the plan, with an emphasis of education for both healthcare professionals and consumers about signs and symptoms of addiction and overdose, along with naloxone information and training. There are complex policy goals to increase physician use of the prescription medicine monitoring tool, along with requiring continuing education hours related to drugs of addiction. Amongst other goals, the policy committee is determined to work with health insurers to create more equity with pain medication cost when prescribing alternate therapies. Both the healthcare education committee and the policy committee have goals related to changing the way treatment is approached by using best-practices, scientific evidence of effectiveness, and medically assisted treatment in addition to abstinence based treatment.

prevention. interventiontreatment. reduction. treatment

We are so humbled by the breadth of engagement, and the depth to which our residents are determined to overcome this crisis. DFD is confident that the work of the Task Force will change the trajectory of opioids in our community, and that in the not-too-distant-future, we will all be living in a more healthy and safe environment.




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