Mayor Demings speaking from a podium at the Project Opioid event while the crowd listens attentively.

Orange County to Lead Central Florida Initiative Combating Opioid Epidemic and Drug Abuse

Public Health & Safety

Project Opioid, the Central Florida initiative to combat drug abuse and addiction, launched on Jan. 30, 2019 and will be co-chaired by Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer.

The bold new community consortium plans to take a different approach to solving the crisis affecting communities across Florida and the nation. Central Florida continues to grapple with the rising tide of addiction and deaths related to the opioid crisis. There were 304 opioid-related deaths in the region during 2016 and heroin-related deaths have risen an astounding 500 percent in the past four years.

Project Opioid begins a conversation about this critical issue facing the community and a new collaborative approach that can stem the tide of tragedy and start saving lives.

“Problems like the opioid crisis can only be solved when our community unites around a shared understanding of that problem and a common strategy for solving it,” said Mayor Jerry L. Demings. “An educated and motivated community can make things happen collaboratively. Our goal is to help create a bold and comprehensive strategy for reaching the residents of Central Florida and to continually raise the red flag about the dangers of opioid abuse and drug addiction.”

Florida Blue CEO Pat Geraghty and Florida Blue Market President Tony Jenkins led the Project Opioid conversation with an extended group of community leaders representing a coalition of local government, business, faith, philanthropy and nonprofit organizations.

“I look forward to working with Florida Blue and our regional partners to find long-term solutions to put an end to this epidemic,” Mayor Demings said.

Project Opioid will recruit influential decision makers throughout the region to help bring awareness and a community-based solution to address the issue. Additionally, the coalition will use existing research to lay the groundwork for new studies that will look at the impact of local opioid addition, as well as information related to the health and pharmaceutical industry, physician’s conduct, access to healthcare and socio-economic factors.

Using the data collected, Project Opioid plans to launch a multifaceted initiative and awareness campaign aimed at educating residents about the opioid crisis.

Orange County Government is dedicated to solving this public-health crisis. In 2015, the County convened the Heroin Task Force, a collaborative, multi-jurisdictional group of leaders in law enforcement, healthcare, treatment, education and prevention as well as public policy. In 2017, Orange County Government created the Heroes Against Heroin campaign, one of 37 targeted recommendations and legislative policies created by the and the Task Force.

In 2018, Orange County Fire Rescue Department (OCFRD) and the Orange County Sheriff’s Office partnered for a door-to-door campaign in the Holden Heights community, which aimed to provide information on how to address an opiate overdose and access treatment resources to over 7,000 residences in the area. Furthermore, OCFRD launched Project Leave Behind, a program that supplies Orange County firefighters with Naloxone nasal spray kits for distribution to the families and loved ones of individuals treated by emergency medical services who remain at high risk of an opioid overdose.

Individuals can obtain information on local drug treatment services by dialing 211 or online at There is also a heroin toolkit available online that includes additional educational and prevention information.

Photo Caption: Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings shares his personal story of his brother’s struggle with opioids to a room of 200 Central Florida leaders at the launch of Project Opioid on Jan. 30, 2019.

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