You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.


  • ePAPER

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


Welcome to

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

Heroin task force launches 2 initiatives, contemplates needle exchange

After a seemingly late and slow start over the summer, efforts of the Palm Beach County Heroin Task Force are gaining traction and support — with two major initiatives poised to launch this month.

At a task force meeting on Thursday, task force leaders said a pilot program aimed at providing immediate detox and treatment for addicts who have overdosed and are taken to a hospital emergency room begins on Monday. The program can enroll up to 30 addicts who have been revived after an overdose and taken to JFK Medical Center.

Participating addicts will be given two doses of buprenorphine, a drug that prevents and eases withdrawal symptoms, while in the emergency room. During the following week, first-responders will continue to administer the drug at the addict’s home or other designated location. Addicts also will be required to attend 12-step meetings or other therapy daily.

Also Monday, the Southeast Behavioral Health Network will complete its application for part of a $27 million federal grant that will provide detox and treatment for opioid addicts.

The application will cite a Palm Beach Post analysis that found hospital charges from treating addicts topped $1.1 billion in 2015. The Post analysis of billings from 302 Florida hospitals appears to be the only publicly available statewide cost calculation to date.

Palm Beach County is one of five Florida counties approved to receive the grant money. The money can be spent only to treat uninsured addicts and target specific populations, including pregnant addicts and parents whose children are under state care.

Treatment centers and sober homes that do not allow patients and residents to use drugs such as buprenorphine and methadone to wean themselves off opioids are not eligible. The grant money will become available in October.

Topics that were once taboo at Heroin Task Force meetings — such as needle exchanges — are now under consideration.

Justin Kunzelman, founder of Rebel Recovery, urged county and city officials to consider passing ordinances to allow needle exchange programs, not only to prevent the spread of HIV and hepatitis but to show addicts that the community cares about them.

“They need to feel they can trust somebody in county or city government,” Kunzelman said. “It gets them engaged in the system and introduces them to everybody else’s resources.”

Task force members said they would consider the option.

Palm Beach County Fire Rescue Captain Houston Park, a co-founder of the task force, said Good Samaritan Medical Center in West Palm Beach is now giving addicts who overdose a prescription for the overdose-antidote Narcan before they are discharged from the emergency department. Other hospitals are considering doing the same, Park said.

The Heroin Task Force’s actions are part of growing momentum to halt the opioid epidemic and crack down on corruption in the drug treatment industry. The Palm Beach County Sober Home Task Force, also created in summer 2015, has made 11 arrests for patient brokering since October.

Public support and participation in the Sober Home Task Force’s efforts are so strong that a tip hotline set up by the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office is often full, said Assistant State Attorney Justin Chapman.

“We’re just getting a lot of tips lately,” Chapman said. “It’s really overwhelming.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

Ex-Bak Middle School treasurer arrested on forgery charges
Ex-Bak Middle School treasurer arrested on forgery charges

A former Bak Middle School of the Arts treasurer suspected in the disappearance of more than $66,000 in school money was arrested Friday on check-forgery charges related to the case, nine months after authorities had ruled out criminal charges against her. Cathleen Spring, 53, was booked into the Palm Beach County Jail shortly after midnight Friday...
Palm Beach County ‘mansion parties’ becoming unruly and problematic
Palm Beach County ‘mansion parties’ becoming unruly and problematic

When Alfred and Jan Malley leave town for the summer, they count on their property manager to keep watch of their $9.87 million house — located in the Estate Section of Palm Beach known for its large mansions. One day this past May, the manager had his family over. Then his children told their friends about the house. And they told their...
NEW: Florida man caught with credit-card skimmers during traffic stop
NEW: Florida man caught with credit-card skimmers during traffic stop

An Orlando man’s erratic driving brought some him unwanted attention this week from Martin County sheriff’s deputies. Yudiel Bayon Garica’s day only got worse after deputies allegedly found him in possession of a credit-card skimmer, a credit-card reader and more than a dozen stolen credit cards. Garcia, 29, was taken into custody...
TSA agent stole from passenger's belongings, police say
TSA agent stole from passenger's belongings, police say

A Transportation Security Administration agent has been arrested after he was accused of stealing money from a passenger at Orlando International Airport in Florida, Orlando police said. Alexander Shae Johnson, 22, was arrested Thursday night. Passenger Kathleen Duddleston entered the TSA checkpoint and was stopped for additional screening, police...
Delray police seek men who injured, robbed elderly woman at Walgreens
Delray police seek men who injured, robbed elderly woman at Walgreens

A surveillance image of two men who allegedly robbed an elderly woman in Delray Beach on Friday, June 23, 2017. Police are looking for the men. (Delray Beach Police Department)   DELRAY BEACH — City police are looking for two men captured on video knocking an elderly woman to the ground and robbing her Friday...
More Stories