Politics, Zika, pythons, hurricanes. Welcome to Florida.
You know what I mean. You watch TV news and read the headlines. It’s all people want to talk about.
Maybe we should be talking instead about an average of 13 overdose calls each day. Yes, 13. Each day.
That’s the number the Delray Beach police officer shared with us as we watched a young man carried out of a building in the 700 block of Atlantic Avenue on a recent evening. It was the third drug overdose call the officer had responded to on his shift that day.
“Welcome to Delray Beach,” he said.
The young man was good as dead when officers found him in a building nestled between bustling restaurants. He is alive now, thanks to Delray’s first responders and the availability of the antidote Narcan. Let’s hope the young man with multiple tattoos and a brand new backpack will find his way toward recovery.
In the meantime, the opioid abuse crisis in South County continues. Consider this:
• In the first seven months of 2016, Boca Raton Fire Rescue administered Narcan 77 times. The highest number of overdose calls came in July, with 18.
• In Boynton Beach, police responded during the same time frame to 189 overdoses, with 15 deaths. In July they responded to 37 overdoses, possibly an all-time high for the city.
• In Delray Beach the numbers were 372 overdoses, 35 deaths. ODs were at an all-time high in July, with 66 reported (seven resulted in death).
Delray Beach Fire Chief Neal de Jesus told the City Commission Aug. 16 that his department has used 1,000 doses of Narcan in the last eight months.
The number of overdose deaths in our backyard far outweighs the threat of Zika-carrying mosquitoes, pythons, tropical weather or any politician. This is the crisis we should be talking about.
If you think this doesn’t impact you, think again. More and more of your tax dollars are being allocated to respond to these drug-related calls. The cost is growing.
If your life has not yet been touched by this crisis, you may ask what you can do. Here are a few suggestions:
Talk with your city leaders and first responders about what they need to do their jobs. Help them out.
Contact local mental health agencies and ask how you can assist their efforts. They, too, are on the front lines with drug addiction.
Keep elected officials talking about the crisis. Hold their feet to the fire. Support the ones looking for solutions and walk away from the ones who shift public discussion to their own agendas. You have a vote. Make it work.
Report sober home and treatment center abuses. If you see something, say something. Use the State Attorney’s sober home task force hotline: 844-324-5463.
And let me be frank. If you enjoy relaxing with any number of legal, or illegal, substances, you may be contributing to the problem. The more mainstream recreational use of opioids becomes, the more difficult the addiction crisis becomes. It’s a market share issue.
Even if your occasional marijuana supplier is your cousin’s best friend, you may still be contributing to an illegal drug trade that keeps more ruthless dealers working our streets.
But I suspect we’d all really rather talk about politics, mosquitoes, pythons and hurricanes, right? Welcome to Florida.
— Mary Kate Leming, Editor