Casey DeSantis Announces Statewide Public Health Advisory as Fentanyl Overdoses Rise

On Thursday, Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis joined Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo, Department of Children and Families (DCF) Secretary Shevaun Harris, Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) Acting Commissioner Mark Glass and Gadsden County Sheriff Morris Young to discuss the recent increase in overdoses associated with fentanyl.

As a result of the discussion, the First Lady, through the Department of Health in coordination with other state agencies, will launch a statewide public messaging advisory to inform the public of the dangers of fentanyl, now the leading cause of death in the Unites States for individuals 18 to 45. The advisory will focus on prevention and recovery resources for overdoses involving synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl. Additionally, the state agencies will work together to share available state resources on substance abuse and mental wellbeing to help meet the needs of communities across Florida, including Gadsden County.

“Too many individuals are losing their lives because of illicit drugs and substance abuse,” said First Lady DeSantis. “Fentanyl overdose is the leading cause of death in the nation for individuals ages 18 to 45. It is primarily being manufactured in China and pouring across our southern border. It is imperative that Floridians know the risks and understand that just two milligrams can be lethal. Stopping drug dealers and helping Floridians overcome the challenges of addiction and preventing overdose deaths is a significant priority for us all.”

“I would like to thank the Governor and the First Lady for their support regarding the Public Health and Safety Crisis Gadsden County is experiencing,” said Young. “It was amazing to see how quickly the Governor dispatched some of the top officials to assist Gadsden County such as the Surgeon General, the FDLE Commissioner, and the Secretary of DCF.”

“More than 6,150 people died from overdoses involving fentanyl and fentanyl analogs in 2020. While substance use disorder is a chronic disease that requires clinical oversight, the fentanyl crisis requires us to be all hands on deck across communities — and that is exactly what we are doing,” said Ladapo.

“Our Department is constantly working to reduce the mortality rate associated with opioid misuse and stimulants and increase the number of people who have access to needed treatments,” said Harris. “Through intentional collaboration with our state and community partners we are working to bring more resources and support to all communities in need.”

“The safety of Florida’s citizens and visitors is paramount to FDLE, and illicit deadly drugs like fentanyl do not have a place within safe communities,” said Glass. “When FDLE conducts drug investigations, our goal is always to take down the entire organization. We thank Governor DeSantis for his leadership and for signing HB 95, keeping drug dealers in prison longer and ending their drug dealing days.”

To assist in recovery DCF will be deploying more than 200 Narcan kits to treat overdoses and peer-support coordinators to the county. Emergency responders can also obtain free Narcan through the Helping Emergency Responders Obtain Support (HEROS) program through DOH. Under the direction of FDLE, the strike force will continue to target fentanyl recovery in northwest Florida. In the first 3 days of operation, the strike force has recovered almost four grams of fentanyl, enough to kill nearly 2,000 Floridians.

The state will also ensure that individuals found trafficking fentanyl will be held to the fullest extent of the law. Governor Ron DeSantis recently signed HB 95 into law, enhancing penalties for those selling and distributing opioids. The mandatory minimum sentence for trafficking fentanyl was increased from 3 years to 7 years for 4-14 grams, and from 15 to 20 years for 14-28 grams. Earlier this year, SB 544 was signed into law, granting Floridians the ability to go directly to pharmacists to receive Narcan that can be administered during emergencies. Previously, individuals were required to go through law enforcement to get Narcan to treat those experiencing an overdose.

Overdoses involving fentanyl are much faster and stronger than overdoses of other opioids. Fatal overdoses involving fentanyl have nearly doubled since 2018, due to illicit drugs, including marijuana and heroin, containing fentanyl without the user’s knowledge. Floridians struggling with substance use disorders can visit www.isavefl.com to get assistance.

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