Ocala police have added a specialized overdose task force to try and combat a growing trend.
The numbers are disturbing because they're only getting worse. In 2018 there were 182 overdoses, roughly 3 a week just within the city limits. Of those 182 overdoses, 28 people died up from 16 overdose deaths in 2017.
The Ocala police department's overdose task force along with their new amnesty program is aimed at stopping drug abuse instead of just offering help to users who come to the police station. They're trying a new method to reach drug users immediately after an episode.'
OPD's public information officer Meghan Shay explained the task force. "What we're doing at this stage is anytime somebody overdoses in the city of Ocala we're sending a navigator who is going to meet with them in the hospital and trying to get them connected to treatment and receptive to our offer to get them the care they need."
Trying to get drug users help only works if there are open beds in detox centers, which now there will be more of at Ocala's main detox location which previously only had 6.
Steve Blank is the chief operating officer for "The Centers he said, "actually as of today we opened our 15 bed medically assisted treatment detox unit which is staffed with nurses, counselors, a doctor, and behavioral health techs ."
Shay added, "a critical element of our amnesty program is to get them into a treatment center immediately not one day later, not a week later they have to get access immediately."
Police point out many of these overdoses and deaths aren't from just one type of drug.
"It's really important to us at this time that the community understands that this is not just an issue of people dying after shooting up heroin. This is methamphetamines, cocaine we have people overdosing and dying from a variety of drugs. Many of them being cut with other drugs that are causing them to be lethal."
Blank says overdoses were especially present in December. "It seems like there was just one after another on the Christmas holidays I think probably 5 or 6 people died over the course of 2 days. So its gotten really out of hand even though it's a national epidemic it seems to have parked itself and gotten comfortable here in Marion County."
To go along with the extra beds for detox patients the centers in Ocala will be opening a sober living campus in the next 2 months for those recovering who don't have any place to stay.