Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Florida group promotes spring breaker for fentanyl warnings

Fort Lauderdale, Fla. ( Associated Press) – In the days after a group of West Point cadets After getting sick of fentanyl-laced cocaine at a South Florida house party over spring break, community activists joined the action.

They blazed beaches, warned spring breakers of a boom in recreational drugs laced with dangerous synthetic opioids and offered an antidote to overdoses, which have spiked nationally during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Street teams stood in the scorching sun, handed out beads, pamphlets and samples of naloxone, a drug known by the brand name Narcan, which can revive overdose victims.

“We weren’t sure how people would react,” said Thomas Smith, director of behavioral health services for The Special Purpose Outreach Team, a local mobile therapy program. “But spring breakers have been great. Some say, ‘I don’t do drugs, but my friend does something stupid sometimes.’ They are happy to have Narkan.”

Smith’s team drives to a Fort Lauderdale beach in a brightly colored mobile clinic van. They run along sidewalks running parallel to the beach, across the main drag from bustling beach clubs and restaurants.

“Have you heard of Narcan?” Huston Ochoa, clinical counselor at The Spot, asked Tristan Gentles on a recent afternoon music from a bar elbow room in the heart of Fort Lauderdale Beach.

Gentles, who worked as a bartender and bouncer in New York City before moving to Fort Lauderdale, said he appreciates his efforts.

“There’s only so much you can do when you see someone on the floor,” he said, adding that he had witnessed several overdoses during his days in New York.

Fentanyl and other synthetic drugs, which can be 50 to 100 times more potent than heroin or prescription opioids, are what make overdoses so dangerous, said David Scharf, who oversees community programs for the Broward Sheriff’s Office. and is the county’s president of opioids. Community Response Team.

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Last year, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that more than 100,000 Americans had died from drug overdoses in a 12-month period for the first time., About two-thirds of deaths were linked to fentanyl and other synthetic drugs. According to preliminary reports from the CDC, stress and fentanyl use from the coronavirus pandemic are thought to be factors in the increase in deaths.

Broward County led the state in fentanyl deaths in 2020, the latest year for which data from the Florida Medical Examiners Commission are available. The sheriff’s office said that in most of the deaths, fentanyl was combined with another drug.

“One snore, one swallow, one shot can kill,” said Jim Hall, a retired epidemiologist at Nova Southeastern University who has worked with the county’s opioid response team. “It’s not just in Florida but anywhere in North America.”

Battalion chief Stephen Golan said that for the first three months of 2022, Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue responded to 373 calls involving a possible overdose, where Narcan was administered. This is an average of more than four per day.

The reaction in Broward was swift after the purchase of five US Military Academy cadets at Wilton Manors on March 10, as were thousands of college students heading to Fort Lauderdale for spring break.

Next Monday, more than 100 people representing agencies from law enforcement to social service organizations and hospitals met via Zoom to devise a plan to keep spring breakers safe.

Groups such as The Spot and the South Florida Wellness Network, which partner with the United Way of Broward County, agreed to go to the beaches to talk with people about the dangers associated with fentanyl-laced drugs. He also talked to restaurant and bar owners who could deliver Narcan if “someone went down,” Scharf said.

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The groups have so far distributed over 2,000 doses of Narcan supplied by state grants. SPOT volunteers gave two doses of the nasal spray and packages with instructions.

“It was a blitz operation to get out there as quickly as possible and get Narcan out on the streets,” Scharf said.

Volunteer groups and the sheriff’s office do not have data on exactly how many distributed doses were used, but believe the program has been successful in raising awareness.

The area is not yet out of the spring break period, which runs until mid-April, but Scharf said organizers are pleased to see some weekends pass without overdoses resulting in emergency calls.

“We had zero, which is like the first time in forever that we had none,” Scharf said.

“We had a terrible situation,” with an overdose of cadets and others, and turned it into “an opportunity to really beef up our education and prevention efforts by flooding beaches and streets,” Scharf said. said.

Smith of The Spot said the Spring Breakers were “grateful and appreciative” and that his group must now plan “how to keep the momentum going.”

To that end, street teams plan to continue working events that bring in large crowds, such as the sold out Tortuga music festival on Fort Lauderdale Beach this weekend.

“It’s about saving lives,” said Amy Martinez, who manages a safe syringe program for Spot. “It’s about saving one life at a time.”

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