Orange County Heroin Task Force Announces New Tool in Fight Against Heroin
Mayor Teresa Jacobs and members of Orange County’s Heroin Task Force announced the creation and launch of the Heroes Against Heroin campaign, one of 37 targeted recommendations made by the Task Force.
The website, www.OCFLHeroesAgainstHeroin.org, includes valuable and life-saving information on how to help someone overcome opioid addiction. The website is set up to provide simple but detailed facts about the opioid abuse epidemic, including treatment resources for those dealing with addiction and educates the community on how to prevent substance use before it starts.
The Orange County Heroin Task Force was convened in August 2015 by Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, with Orange County Sheriff Jerry L. Demings as co-chair.
“It’s absolutely crucial that we use every tool at our disposal to fight this epidemic – not only through treatment and law enforcement interdiction, but also through prevention. It’s vital that young people know how deadly opioids can be, and that they should never, ever try heroin or fentanyl – not even once,” said Mayor Jacobs. “Through our newly launched Heroes Against Heroin website – a recommendation of the Orange County Heroin Task Force, which I convened in 2015, we are able to provide a wide variety of prevention, treatment and educational tools and resources. Together we’re working to save families and loved ones from the heartbreak of addiction, and from the scourge of this heroin epidemic.”
Opioid-related overdose deaths continue to claim lives. As of July 25, the Orange County Medical Examiner’s Office had already attributed 66 deaths to heroin and fentanyl. The 2017 numbers confirm that deaths related to heroin and fentanyl are expected to exceed those in 2016.
The Heroes Against Heroin website hosts information on local treatment options, prevention resources and Naloxone, also known as Narcan, which can quickly reverse the effects of a heroin overdose if given before permanent damage to the brain and other vital organs occurs.
In addition to resources, the Heroes Against Heroin Toolkit, another product of the Task Force is now accessible online. Prior to launch, the toolkit was only available in hard copy format. The kit contains fact sheets, resource guides and a copy of the film “Chasing the Dragon,” which depicts the powerful stories of individuals battling addiction.
“Far too many Americans do not get the treatment they need to fight addiction. Through our innovative partnership and participation with the Orange County Heroin Task Force, we are focusing our collective efforts as one community on addressing the heroin epidemic by sharing information, resources and tools with individuals who need treatment or are in recovery,” said Maribeth Ehasz, Ph.D., Vice President for Student Development and Enrollment Services at the University of Central Florida. “We are reaching out early and often to educational and family settings to help everyone understand the risks associated with drugs. By working together, we can save lives.”
The Task Force was organized with several subcommittees to address areas in law enforcement, education and prevention, healthcare, and treatment.
The Heroes Against Heroin website and campaign is a product of the Task Force’s Education and Prevention Subcommittee, which was co-chaired by Maribeth Ehasz; Barbara M. Jenkins, Ed.D., Superintendent of Orange County Public Schools; Sanford Shugart, Ph.D., President of Valencia College with Jeff Goltz, Ph.D., Executive Dean representing Dr. Shugart.
Signature recommendations already implemented by the Heroin Task Force include:
- The Vivitrol Pilot program through Orange County which provides Vivitrol to qualifying inmates. Vivitrol is an extended-release injection medication that blocks the effects of heroin/opioids and reduces cravings while seeking treatment. The Orange County Jail was also the first in the state of Florida to provide Narcan to inmates upon release.
- The Heroin Task Force is also credited with helping to equip local law enforcement with Naloxone, also known as Narcan, a medication administered during an emergency overdose. This initiative has been credited with saving nearly 100 lives
- In partnership with the Task Force, Mayor Jacobs and Sheriff Demings issued a joint letter to the Florida Senate President and House Speaker advocating for passage of HB477, which targets drug dealers, specifically involving those dealing synthetics like fentanyl. Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill into law on June 14, 2017; it will become effective on October 1. The new law classifies fentanyl derivates as a Schedule I drug. Possession of 10 grams or more will now be a first degree felony. The bipartisan bill established new minimum prison sentences and fines. Drug dealers could also be charged with murder if distribution of the drug is proven to be the cause of death of the user.
- In September 2016, Ninth Judicial Circuit Judge Frederick Lauten doubled bond amounts for 1st degree and 2nd degree felony charges for heroin trafficking and delivery through an Administrative Order.
ABOUT THE ORANGE COUNTY HEROIN TASK FORCE
Orange County’s collaborative, multi-jurisdictional Heroin Task Force was comprised of 22 key community leaders, lending their expertise and staff in the areas of law enforcement, healthcare, treatment, education and prevention as well as public policy. The Task Force adopted 37 recommendations for implementation. In addition to legislative advocacy during the 2017 session, Task Force members were key to getting Naloxone (also known as Narcan) into the hands of more first responders – especially law enforcement – through legislative action in the 2016 session. In partnership with Orange County’s Corrections team, the Task Force was instrumental in the launch of the Vivitrol program, a medication-assisted treatment program administered through the Orange County Jail that helps inmates fight addiction before they are released.
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