Dozens of lives lost due to drug overdose, opioid epidemic rages on in NCFL

Updated: Jun. 8, 2021 at 5:22 PM EDT
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OCALA, Fla. (WCJB) - It’s an ongoing problem.

Last month we told you how rampant the opioid epidemic is in north central Florida.

Opioid epidemic series
Segment 1

Police officials track drug dealers closely, treatment centers see an inordinate increase in patients asking for help

Segment 2

State attorney explains initiative to charge drug dealers with murder

Segment 3

Help for opioid addiction is free and available to people living in NCFL

Segment 4

Ocala mother shares her experience in helping her daughter find addiction treatment

The epidemic has changed over the years, but shows no signs of stopping.

Just within the City of Ocala, the number of people struggling with addiction and dying due to that addiction is overwhelming.

We sat down with the Director of the Unified Drug Enforcement Strike Team, Capt. Jason Douglas.

“Since May 1st we’ve responded to approximately 40 overdoses. 15 of those instances, Ocala Police Department personnel has deployed Narcan and in some of those cases they were able to save the overdose victim,” Douglas said.

Douglas said out of these calls, a little more than five people died during the month of May.

“I feel like to the average person, within just a month, 40 seems like a lot,” I asked him during our interview.

“Yes ma’am it is,” he responded, “And that’s just what the police department is responded to. That doesn’t include everything that EMS, Ocala Fire Rescue, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office that any other entity in the county has responded to,” Douglas said.

Ocala Fire Rescue officials said they received 114 calls in May just for overdoses.

“There are so many people using drugs, a safe bet is to give Narcan. It’s really, the paramedics and the EMT are just able to make those snap decisions in a matter of seconds,” Capt. Jesse Blaire said.

It’s a deadly epidemic that has taken over 20 lives this year, in Ocala alone.

“Our year to date statistics, only inside the city, are 136 cases through May with 21 of those ending in death. Just in June, from the beginning of June to today, we’ve had eight cases with two deaths, so this problem is huge,” Blaire added.

A huge problem that has spread throughout the region.

Sheriff’s officials said they’ve had 40 deaths due to drug overdose so far this year in Marion County, with several more waiting on autopsy results to confirm. If you break it down, they said that’s almost two a week.

“These drugs are not coming from a pharmacy. These are coming from a drug dealer, so you’re getting poor quality fentanyl and heroin and everything mixed in there, very very deadly concoction and if that Narcan is not administered in a coupe minutes then you’re dead,” MCSO Public Relations Director Sgt. Paul Bloom said.

On almost every shift officials said deputies are being called out to assist in an overdose.

Every deputy and other law enforcement officer in Marion County carries Narcan with them, not just for the patient, but for them.

That’s how dangerous some of these drugs, like fentanyl, are.

“We’ve saved a lot more lives than we lost, that’s the good news, but the bad news is we’re still out there having to do this. You don’t have to ingest this drug, you can just touch it and it can affect you. I’ve been to some drug raids with our drug unit and we found needles laying out in the yard, and I look across the street and there’s children playing,” Bloom added.

So officials said educate your children, because the supply will be there to fill the demand.

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