PASCO COUNTY, Fla. — Data from the Pasco County Sheriff’s OfficeShows that U.S.19 is a hotspot opioid overdoses. Overdoses account for one fifth of all overdoses. Pasco CountyFentanyl is now a deadly drug that can make it fatal. crisis.
RELATED: Pasco County opioidFamily members and survivors of overdoses speak out, as one in five are now fatal
The I-Team was part of the sheriff’s Behavioral Heat Intervention Team (BHIT), and proactively administered Narcan, a medication that reverses heart disease. opioid overdoses, toCommunities in need
“I’m just stopping by to give you some more supplies just in case,” Cpl. Ricardo Ortiz told a woman working the front desk at a Pasco County hotel, handing over several boxes of Narcan.
The Behavioral Health Intervention Team was formed three years ago, growing from six to 16 detectives, to connect people with mental health and substance abuse resources.
In the first six months of 2021, the medical examiner district covering Pasco and Pinellas counties reported more fentanyl deaths than any other part of the state. The numbers have continued to climb.
“It’s getting out of control. Absolutely out of control,” Ortiz said.
The sheriff’s office is seeing more than 100 overdoses a month.
The Behavioral Health Intervention Team represents a shift in the way the sheriff’s office addresses the ongoing opioid crisis — from arrest to resources. The goal is to visit with every overdose survivor within 24 hours of their overdose.
“We can get them services as soon as that day,” Ortiz said. “The breakthrough with this program is to gain that trust and them have someone to count on. Believe it or not, it may be a cop all kitted up like this, but we’re actually there to help them. They know that.”
Narcan was introduced by Justina Juliano, Detective Justina Juliano. toA homeless camp off U.S. 19. There was a young lady and her dog who came out of the homeless encampment. toTalk with the ABC Action News I-Team. She spoke to Det. Juliano told her that she has been in the camp for approximately a month.
The I-Team affirmed their agreement not toFor safety reasons, you can show your face or use your name.
“I’ve recently, about a year ago, lost my best friend,” she said, showing the I-Team a blue heart necklace she wears in his memory. It reads, “Forever in mine mind, always in me heart.”
He died from snorting Fentanyl, she said. Fentanyl, which is stronger than heroin, is often mixed with other drugs.
“Your first time could be your last time,” the woman’s fiancé told the I-Team. “I’ve witnessed a lot of people die.”
The I-Team was curious to know if these individuals knew what they were taking. He replied, “Nobody knew.”
He then opened up about his own struggle with addiction.
“I’ve been doing it about a year now,” he said, referring to fentanyl. “I still feel like I have a strong enough willpower to get off, you know? I just feel like I’m not ready. At the time.”
He is also currently homeless, living in the encampment, and said it scared him to see people around him dying.
“I would have pictured by now I’d already be dead,” he said. “I’m really surprised I’m not, to be honest.”
White men accounted for 63% of overdose victims in 2022, according to Pasco Sheriff’s Office data.
Captain Toni Roach said the team’s goal is to connect people to community resources before it’s too late. The sheriff’s office has partnerships with BayCare Behavioral Health to help with medication-assisted treatment, like Suboxone, and the nonprofit The Hope Shot, which is people in recovery helping others for peer support.
When asked if they’re seeing an impact, Roach said, “We’re not looking at 90% success rate, but when you look at an individual person who’s experienced the addiction getting on the road to recovery, having a sustainable lifestyle, getting a job, reconciling with their spouse, getting their children back from the state services, that’s the real win.”
These wins begin with the first step. Ortiz, Juliano, and the young lady were able to give water, sweatshirts and backpacks containing supplies. They also gave a toy for her dog. to Narcan.
“If you or anybody you know back there wants some help, call us, ok?” Ortiz said.
Ortiz stated that it is those interactions that give him hope.
“Now they know why we’re here,” he said.
The Department of Health does not include the following: Pasco CountyA sign flashes on Little Road toAll cars passing by: “SAVE a LIFE NARCAN HERE.” Through a program that started late last year, the lifesaving medication is now free and available in all health departments throughout the state.
Click here toLocate a Narcan provider in your area.
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