You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myPalmBeachPost.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myPalmBeachPost.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myPalmBeachPost.com.

Frankel lends an ear to locals on opioid epidemic: ‘It’s overwhelming’


U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel wanted to hear about the region’s opioid epidemic so she hosted a community forum in Delray Beach on Friday.

She got an earful of bad news.

Click to read the special report

“It’s overwhelming,” Frankel said, shaking her head. “I don’t think most people understand this.”

In Delray Beach, the heroin epidemic has gotten so bad that the chiefs of police and fire rescue have brought in mental health counselors to help first-responders deal with overdose deaths.

“The challenge is keeping the troops engaged enough to where they still want to make a difference,” said Fire Chief Neal De Jesus said at the roundtable.

De Jesus said young paramedics and firefighters he oversees “are seeing more death in two years than I’ve seen in 32 years.” Delray Beach Police Chief Jeff Goldman said he, too, has brought in mental health counselors to help his officers keep their “compassion and empathy.”

Overdose calls are putting such a strain on paramedics and firefighters that “we literally cannot keep up,” De Jesus said.

“It’s put a significant strain on our ability to provide day-to-day services to our residents,” De Jesus said.”Response times are increasing to an unacceptable level.”

The medical examiner is predicting 403 opioid overdose deaths this year — up from about 350 in 2015. The overdose deaths include prescription opioids, including oxycodone. Most worrisome is the sharp rise in deadly fentanyl detected in overdose victims, said Dr. Rita McDougall, Palm Beach County associate medical examiner.

In 2015, fentanyl, a pain medicine 50-100 times more powerful than morphine, was detected in 90 fatal overdoses. In the first nine months of 2016, fentanyl was detected in 220 cases.

McDougall said she works seven days a week but still can’t keep up: “It doesn’t feel like my passion anymore. It feels like my job.”

Frankel has taken the lead among Florida’s lawmakers in Washington on addiction-related issues. She persuaded federal housing officials to visit Palm Beach County for a tour of sober homes as part of her effort to get clarification on federal housing laws that protect people with disabilities, such as drug addicts.

Frankel sited The Palm Beach Post’s recent series on the opioid epidemic, Heroin: Killer of a generation, in her invitation to speakers at the event on Friday.

Around the room the bad news continued. Chief Assistant State Attorney Al Johnson, who heads the Sober Home Task Force, explained a new scam: Marketers have figured out how to re-route to treatment centers in Florida the phone calls of addicts seeking help out of state.

The marketers then lure them to Florida with offers of free airfare, gym memberships, cigarettes and free rent. Besides insurance fraud and patient brokering, there are also cases of human trafficking and sex slaves, Johnson said.

One mother contacted the State Attorney’s Office after she received the bill for seven months of treatment for her son, who overdosed and died in July 2015. The total: $609,000, Johnson said.

When Frankel asked for ways to curb the epidemic, Delray Beach Mayor Cary Glickstein suggested getting local overdose data to parents up North who are considering sending their child to Florida for treatment.

“They’re not going to get better here,” Glickstein said. “They’re going to get better at home where they aren’t surrounded by predatory practices.”


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Honey Boo Boo's Mama June to star in new TV show
Honey Boo Boo's Mama June to star in new TV show

“Mama June” Shannon, matriarch of the erstwhile “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” who went on to appear on “Marriage Boot Camp,” is set to hit the small screen once again. “Who is ready for us to come back?” Shannon said on Twitter. “Get ready, y’all won’t want to miss it. Love all of...
EXCLUSIVE: Workers say contractor fired them after immigration protest
EXCLUSIVE: Workers say contractor fired them after immigration protest

On Thursday, 40 employees of a Boca Raton construction company skipped work to participate in a national “Day Without Immigrants” protest. When they returned to their Miami job site Friday, workers say, four were fired — although the employer said the terminations were unrelated to the protest. The other 36 decided to sit out another...
Trumps’ Mar-A-Lago appearance Saturday went out live on Periscope
Trumps’ Mar-A-Lago appearance Saturday went out live on Periscope

President Donald Trump creates a stir no matter where he ends up -- and Saturday night was not an exception. His appearance at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s event at Mar-A-Lago, along with that of the First Lady, Melania Trump, caught the venue’s patrons off-guard. Douglas Kass, a Palm Beach author and investment banker, caught the...
Jupiter police investigating death of man found near community center

A 28-year-old man was found dead early Sunday in the parking lot of a nonprofit community center in Jupiter, town police said. Elser L. Roldan Saenz was found just before 7 a.m. in the parking lot of El Sol Neighborhood Resource Center, at Military Trail and Indiantown Road, according to a police spokesperson. Police first said the death was suspicious...
More Stories