Broward County mayor holds opioid epidemic town hall meeting

PEMBROKE PINES, FLA. (WSVN) - Government leaders and healthcare professionals gathered in Broward County to tackle the opioid abuse epidemic.

Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief held an opiod epidemic town hall meeting Thursday morning to talk about how officials can find a solution.

Police said they have seen an increase in heroin in the streets.

“When you have our coroners and medical examiners who are telling us that there are dozens each week of individuals dying from this opioid epidemic and their addiction, then you know that we have to try to do everything that we can comprehensively to stop it in its tracks,” said Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.

Heroin is one form of an opiate, which is used on the streets. Medically, they’re used to treat pain, but it is highly addictive. “We are facing, at the local state and national level, Broward, Florida and and all across the country, an opioid addiction epidemic of epic proportions,” Wasserman-Schultz said.

In Broward County there were 582 overdoses in 2016 alone. Thus far in 2017, the overdose rate is close to 300, so the numbers are actually increasing.

“We are pooling our resources, not just on a county level, but with our 31 municipalities to combat this problem,” Sharief said.

Law enforcement, elected officials and other experts attended Thursday’s meeting to learn more about the drug, how to tell if someone is high, and if they’re addicted. “This is everybody,” Sharief said. “It knows no socioeconomic boundaries, and so I believe that that’s why it’s become such a national epidemic.”

And Sharief said this issue affects all tax payers. “A person is addicted, and they’re having a crisis. They’re having a failure from overdose of an opioid. We pay for that in the form of healthcare, emergency services and even at times, for mortuary services,” she said.

Wasserman-Schultz told 7News that she wants to be sure there are services out there for these issues. “What I’m concerned about as a member of Congress on the Appropriations committee is that we make sure we provide the resources and the tools that recovery specialists and programs need,” she said, “to be able to help break the cycle of addiction.”

About 300 people attended the meeting, which is a positive sign for Sharief. “People are recognizing that this is a problem in our community, and we’re gonna solve it together,” she said.

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