MIAMI (WSVN) - Federal and local law enforcement officials held a town hall to offer help and advice for the community on combating the opioid abuse epidemic.
“This crisis doesn’t discriminate,” acting U.S. State Attorney Benjamin Greenberg said. “It’s a crisis that knows no boundaries, and it has become a crises that is literally affecting every single community in the United States.”
The crisis of heroin and prescription opioid addiction has hit hard in Miami, Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez explained.
“We’ve gotten to the point in our community where there’s more deaths related to these overdoses than murder, than gun violence,” Perez said.
For seven out of 10, it starts with prescription medications and leads to addiction. In 2015, more than 1,400 people died from overdoses in South Florida, or one person every two hours.
“The DEA’s initiative, the 360 Initiative, we attack several areas,” DEA agent AJ Collazo said. “Of course we deal with our enforcement efforts, going after these cartels, the street dealers, the people that are bringing this poison to the streets.”
The effort has proven successful so far, according to Agnes Winokur from DEA’s Southeast Regional Laboratory.
“We have seen a large increase in fentanyl submissions from 2015 to 2016,” Winokur said. “It has increased 423 percent. This is a large increase which shows law enforcement is definitely taking steps to take these powerful and deadly opiates off the streets.”
The downside is that means more deadly combinations of these opiates are getting into the hands of the addicted.
“We’ve seen fentanyl with carfentanyl, cocaine and heroin,” Winokur said. “It’s amazing that there’s people that even survive.”
The Miami-Dade Medical Examiner described the mix of fentanyl with heroin to be 40 times more powerful than morphine.
The Trump administration created the Federal Opioid Commission to combat the crisis.
“Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death in our country,” Trump said at the time.
For Florida Gov. Rick Scott, the issue is personal.
“I grew up in a family, my family dealt with drug abuse and alcoholism,” Scott said recently. “It’s really tough. It’s tough on the person, and it’s tough on the family.”
Scott signed an executive order allowing the state to draw more than $27 million in federal grant funding from the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services to provide prevention, treatment and recovery support.
Education is the key to preventing more deaths from overdoses, according to national and local officials.
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