A.J. “Tony” Smith
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Opioid epidemic demands every resource available

Floridians are witnessing an alarming upswing in the number of deaths from drug abuse and overdose, especially from heroin and prescription painkillers, also known as opioids. As the Franklin County sheriff, my team and I have seen first-hand how this epidemic has tragically unfolded in our community. Emergency calls are more and more frequent, and the worst situation is for our officers to arrive on the scene too late and be unable to save a life.

The epidemic has taken a turn for the worse in recent years due to the increased frequency of opioid use and deadlier opioids infiltrating Florida. In the first eight months of 2020, Florida experienced a 43% spike in drug overdose deaths compared to the year prior. Also in 2020, deaths attributed to fentanyl in Florida increased by more than 80%. The following year, Florida’s emergency responders treated more than 105,000 drug overdoses, and more than 40,000 of those overdoses were suspected to have involved opioids. This crisis demands a comprehensive response, one that addresses the urgent need for additional resources to combat the growing threat.

When Florida introduced a standing order to provide access to all our first responders with naloxone, we thought it would be the solution that would turn the tide in the battle against opioid overdoses. While it has made a significant impact, fentanyl and synthetic opioids have grown in strength, and often our officers must administer multiple doses of naloxone to reverse an overdose and save a life.

It is a daunting task to combat an epidemic that is growing in deadliness. Thankfully, FDA-approved, non-addictive medications have been developed that can treat stronger synthetic opioids more effectively. These drug overdose reversal medications work immediately and have a longer half-life, which helps reverse overdoses from highly potent opioids that stay in a victim’s system longer.

To turn the tide on the impact of addiction and protect our children and communities, we must adopt public policies that will give those who protect and serve the tools we need to save lives.

However, Florida currently restricts access to these life-saving medications, leaving first responders without the necessary resources to save lives. It is critically important that our state updates this standing order to make all FDA-approved overdose reversal medications available to first responders and medical personnel who need them. 

This is a commonsense solution that will save lives and combat the opioid epidemic plaguing our state. 

People from all walks of life suffer from the debilitating disease of drug addiction. Preventing drug overdoses and saving lives is the first step we must take so that victims of addiction have a second chance at life and the opportunity to get on the road to recovery and health. 

A.J. “Tony” Smith is the sheriff of Franklin County.

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Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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