Marion County sees dramatic increase in opioid deaths during pandemic

Published: Dec. 16, 2020 at 6:51 PM EST
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OCALA, Fla. (WCJB) - Opioid deaths have spiked in Florida since the COVID-19 pandemic hit. In Marion County, opioid deaths rose from almost 70 deaths to nearly 140.

The increase in opioid use and deaths are, in part, related to the pandemic, but members of Ocala fire rescue and police department say the issue lies deeper.

“It always includes some sort of trauma or deep hurt and what I have found is these people don’t have the coping skills they need so instead of putting their head down and driving forward they just want to escape,” said Captain Jesse Blair from Ocala Fire Rescue.

In Marion County, opioid overdoses have increased dramatically this year, with fentanyl as a leading drug used.

“When you look at the pandemic and COVID -- what it has done to people-- losing their jobs, being at home which has been more stressful for people-- feeling isolated-- they’re looking for that high to get them out of that moment,” said Ocala Police Department’s public information officer, Corie Byrd.

Ocala Fire rescue and Ocala Police have joined forces to fight the ongoing epidemic.

“We don’t see addiction as a crime we see it as an illness- so the PD we find funds for them to go to treatment,” said Byrd. “They can call us they can surrender any type of drugs or paraphernalia to us without fear of arrest --without fear of-- no cost to them we will take them to treatment.”

The police department’s amnesty program is similar to Ocala Fire Rescue’s Ocala Recovery Project, where the organizations provide long-term support and services. Through these services they have helped thousands of people addicted, get the help they need in just the past year

“We maintain that contact--try to develop a trust or you can call it a relationship-- and let them know we are sending them to the most appropriate place- but when they get out, we will be there for them against you carry them through recovery.”

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