Special Report: Generation Heroin

In 2015, 216 died of heroin-related overdoses in Palm Beach County. We tell each of their stories, unveil a stigma buried in suburbia, and a failure of policy-makers to act against an epidemic taking more lives than car crashes or homicides.
County board wants ordinance declaring opioid crisis a public nuisance

County board wants ordinance declaring opioid crisis a public nuisance

Palm Beach County commissioners have directed County Attorney Denise Nieman to draft an ordinance declaring the opioids epidemic a public nuisance and making clear the county’s ability to recover money it is spending combating the crisis. The county filed suit last week against 29 drug manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies, alleging that their negligence, fraud and deceptive marketing...
Florida fertile ground for drug company to sling fentanyl

Florida fertile ground for drug company to sling fentanyl

Florida, the reputed epicenter of the opioid crisis, served as fertile ground for a pharmaceutical company accused of bribing doctors to prescribe a powerful fentanyl spray. The Sunshine State topped the nation in 2014 and 2015 for patients and claims to Medicare for the medicine manufactured and marketed by Arizona-based Insys Therapeutics, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid...
How Big Pharma uses psychology on doctors to do its bidding

How Big Pharma uses psychology on doctors to do its bidding

So why do physicians fall for pharmaceutical companies’ enticements? Why do they put all they worked for on the line, after all their schooling, the endless hours of residency, the difficulty of establishing themselves in their chosen specialty? It’s pretty simple, says a medical marketing expert: sales reps exploit doctors’ weaknesses with flattery and friendship. Drug company representatives...
Local doctor in indictment of fentanyl execs: I committed no crime

Local doctor in indictment of fentanyl execs: I committed no crime

A Palm Beach County physician — one of the nation’s top prescribers of a highly addictive fentanyl spray — believes he is one of 10 unidentified doctors described in a federal criminal indictment against executives of a pharmaceutical company prosecutors say bribed doctors to prescribe the drug. The indictment lists the 10 as “co-conspirator practitioners,” but Dr...
Editorial: Palm Beach County brings stinging case to court on opioids

Editorial: Palm Beach County brings stinging case to court on opioids

“This case is about one thing: corporate greed.” So begins the lawsuit filed by the government of Palm Beach County against the pharmaceutical manufacturers, distributors and sellers behind the opioid crisis that has cost this region so much in lives and money. The 266-page complaint lays out a compelling case that it wasn’t a public health crisis or a medical breakthrough or some...
Drug firms react to Palm Beach County suit, deny causing opioid crisis

Drug firms react to Palm Beach County suit, deny causing opioid crisis

Some of the companies being sued by Palm Beach County have acknowledged the devastation of the opioids epidemic, but they stopped short of admitting any role in creating or worsening it. “We are deeply troubled by the prescription and illicit opioid abuse crisis, and we are dedicated to being part of the solution,” Bob Josephson, executive director of communications for Purdue...
Palm Beach County sues Wal-Mart, CVS, drug firms over opioid crisis

Palm Beach County sues Wal-Mart, CVS, drug firms over opioid crisis

Palm Beach County has filed suit against more than two dozen individuals and firms — including mega-companies like CVS, Wal-Mart and Johnson & Johnson — alleging that their negligence and deceptive trade practices have contributed to the ongoing opioid crisis. The 266-page complaint, filed Thursday in Palm Beach County Circuit Court, is massive not only in size but in scope. It represents...
Ex-Boca school counselor used exotic dancer, models to push fentanyl

Ex-Boca school counselor used exotic dancer, models to push fentanyl

Alec Burlakoff once worked as a guidance counselor and basketball coach at a private Boca Raton prep school, but then he jumped into the cutthroat world of pharmaceuticals. It would never be the same. As national sales chief for Insys Therapeutics, he helped direct the hiring of a former exotic dancer from West Palm Beach, models and even a reality TV star who posed for Playboy to peddle one...
How The Post unearthed the local roots of the Insys story

How The Post unearthed the local roots of the Insys story

In tracing the roots of the opioid epidemic, Palm Beach Post investigative editor Holly Baltz researched local prescribers of oxycodone and found something curious. One Palm Beach County doctor ranked as a Top 10 prescriber nationally of an unusual fentanyl-based drug called Subsys. What was Subsys? That question prompted a nine-month investigation headed by Baltz and investigative...
Veteran, would-be lawyer, mom left dead or addicted after Subsys

Veteran, would-be lawyer, mom left dead or addicted after Subsys

An Iraq War veteran. A New Jersey woman planning her wedding. A grandmother from Jacksonville. A firefighter’s wife in South Carolina. All were prescribed a powerful spray fentanyl painkiller called Subsys, approved by the Food and Drug Administration only for breakthrough cancer pain. None had cancer. But many of their doctors received hundreds of thousands from the manufacturer of the...
Master salesman Burlakoff mixes ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ with Big Pharma

Master salesman Burlakoff mixes ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ with Big Pharma

Alec Burlakoff told his sales staff at Insys Therapeutics that “The Wolf of Wall Street” was the “best sales training video in history.” Now, the maverick salesman from Boca Raton faces federal criminal charges that he played fast and loose marketing a fentanyl spray. The movie, about machismo capitalism run amok in the pump-and-dump era of the 1980s and 1990s, also reflects...
County opioids lawyer accused of poaching clients in Flint water case

County opioids lawyer accused of poaching clients in Flint water case

One of the lawyers seeking to represent Palm Beach County in an opioids lawsuit has been accused of poaching clients and charging excessive fees in the lead poisoning cases from Flint, Mich. Palm Beach Gardens attorney Ted Leopold has filed a motion in federal court to have Hunter Shkolnik of Napoli Shkolnik removed as co-counsel in the Flint cases, saying Shkolnik’s “actions in entering...
BREAKING: Delray sober-home operator faces patient-brokering charges

BREAKING: Delray sober-home operator faces patient-brokering charges

A woman identified by police as the operator of a Delray Beach sober home is charged with receiving at least $65,800 to refer residents to the London Treatment Center in West Palm Beach, whose owners were arrested last year by Palm Beach County's Sober Home Task Force. Betsy Dieujuste, 36, of Boca Raton was booked Thursday evening into the Palm Beach County Jail, charged with 33 counts of patient...
Grieving moms’ pleas mean tougher sentence for Boynton sober home owner

Grieving moms’ pleas mean tougher sentence for Boynton sober home owner

When Albert Jones Saye was accused last year of turning drug addicts into cash cows to reap tens of thousands of dollars in illicit profits, he began cooperating with authorities, giving up the names of others involved in Palm Beach County’s nefarious sober house industry. On Thursday, grieving mothers dashed the 27-year-old Boynton Beach man’s hopes that he would be rewarded for his cooperation...
The strange tale of Wolfie and the addicts

The strange tale of Wolfie and the addicts

hen John Churchill came to town in early 2016 looking for answers about his son’s death, he brought a close friend — recently retired Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Maj. Ron Hartley.  They wanted to see the West Palm Beach house where Steven N. Churchill, 54, had died six months earlier of an accidental heroin overdose. “Every place has their dope holes,” said...
Florida Bar opinion complicates Palm Beach County opioids lawsuit plan

Florida Bar opinion complicates Palm Beach County opioids lawsuit plan

At least two Palm Beach County commissioners want a new team of lawyers to represent the county if it files suit against drug makers and distributors. The three-firm team of Stull, Stull and Brody, Napoli Shkolnik and the Ferraro Law Firm was selected by commissioners to represent the county in an opioids suit. Among the three finalists vying to represent the county, the Stull-Napoli-Ferraro team...
Lawyer Palm Beach County chose for opioid suit has controversy in past

Lawyer Palm Beach County chose for opioid suit has controversy in past

Paul Napoli has survived leukemia, a dispute with another firm over legal fees, an acrimonious split with a former law firm partner and a tabloid-feeding sex scandal involving a junior associate. Now, the New York lawyer is poised to help represent Palm Beach County in what could be one of the biggest court cases in the county’s history, a battle against drug manufacturers and distributors...
Editorial: Despite new law, Florida needs bigger commitment on opioids

Editorial: Despite new law, Florida needs bigger commitment on opioids

With plenty of pomp, Gov. Rick Scott came to Boca Raton on Monday to ceremoniously sign a high-profile bill designed to prevent Floridians from getting hooked on opioids. If only this new law were anywhere near as powerful as the addictions it hopes to combat. Although the governor last year declared a public health emergency, the reality is that he has done far too little to attack a crisis tied...
POINT OF VIEW: Congress must fund programs to treat opioid overdoses

POINT OF VIEW: Congress must fund programs to treat opioid overdoses

Far too many Floridians are affected by the national opioid epidemic. In 2016, more than 4,000 Floridians lost their lives after overdosing, so it is not surprising many of us can name a family member, friend or acquaintance affected by opioid overdoses. Our communities are in danger. The entire nation is talking about how to solve the opioid crisis and keep our citizens safe. Much of this conversation...
PBC taxpayers might not get full protection against costs in drug suit

PBC taxpayers might not get full protection against costs in drug suit

All of the law firms that have agreed to help Palm Beach County sue drug makers and distributors have extensive and diverse experience, winning hundreds of millions for their clients in complex, high-profile cases in recent years. For county taxpayers, that’s the good news. The bad news is that taking on drug makers and distributors, as financially and politically potent a set of adversaries...
Palm Beach County picks lawyers for possible opioids lawsuit

Palm Beach County picks lawyers for possible opioids lawsuit

Palm Beach County commissioners have selected a team of lawyers to represent the county if it files suit against drug makers and distributors to recoup costs spent battling the opioid epidemic. At the end of an all-day meeting Tuesday, the commissioners selected The Ferraro Law Firm of Miami and a pair of New York City firms, Napoli Skolnik and Stull, Stull and Brody. That team was the only one of...
NEW: Owner of Delray, Lantana sober homes accused of patient brokering

NEW: Owner of Delray, Lantana sober homes accused of patient brokering

The owner of sober homes in Delray Beach and Lantana is facing 16 counts of steering patients to drug-treatment centers operated by his brother, according to an arrest report. Ronald Louis Tomasso, 59, was booked into the Palm Beach County Jail on Monday night and was being held on $48,000 bail Tuesday after appearing before Judge Dina Keever-Agrama. James Tomasso, Ronald’s 58-year-old...
Florida Legislature passes plan to battle opioids at session’s end

Florida Legislature passes plan to battle opioids at session’s end

In the waning hours of the annual session, the Florida Legislature approved tough new restrictions Friday on prescription drugs and agreed to spend more than $53 million on treatment and prevention to battle the state’s opioid crisis. Despite the issue being a top priority for the 2018 session, the final vote on the measure (HB 21) almost didn’t come as the Senate and House were at...
Drug distributors speak out against possible opioid suit by PBC

Drug distributors speak out against possible opioid suit by PBC

With Palm Beach County commissioners poised to consider filing suit against drug makers and distributors, important players have emerged opponents of such a move: drug makers and distributors. “The misuse and abuse of prescription opioids is a complex public health challenge that requires a collaborative and systemic response that engages all stakeholders,” John Parker, senior vice president...
County turns to detox med to fight opiate crisis — and finds success

County turns to detox med to fight opiate crisis — and finds success

Dustin Dailey said he got hooked on opioids after he took one OxyContin pill to relieve the pain of his sciatica. He ended up a homeless beggar. Desperate last spring, he walked into JFK Medical Center and into a new program that uses medication to wean addicts off heroin. He became patient No. 3 of the pilot program spearheaded by the Health Care District of Palm Beach County that uses buprenorphine...
Palm Beach County to pick team for possible lawsuit in opioid fight

Palm Beach County to pick team for possible lawsuit in opioid fight

Three teams of law firms have emerged as the finalists to represent Palm Beach County if the county files suit against drug makers or sellers as part of its fight against the opioid epidemic. As the Florida Legislature just passed a bill Friday that will allocate $53 million to the state’s opioid-crisis fight, Palm Beach County commissioners are expected to choose one of those legal teams when...
Florida House approves prescription limits in opioid fight

Florida House approves prescription limits in opioid fight

While the sponsor acknowledged his bill won’t solve the Florida’s problem with opioid abuse, the state House on Thursday unanimously passed a measure that includes imposing prescription limits. “I don’t think it (the problem) is going to completely go away, but I think this is a way for us to fight back,” Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, said Thursday as he finished presenting...
Gratitude House sells for $3.3 million; new treatment center to open

Gratitude House sells for $3.3 million; new treatment center to open

A Boynton Beach drug treatment center has paid $3.3 million for the 1.6-acre campus that was home to Gratitude House, a West Palm Beach drug treatment center that welcomed poor and pregnant addicts and their newborns for nearly 50 years. According to court records, 1700 Dixie LLC — a company owned by Denis Holmes, CEO of Beachway Therapy in Boynton Beach — bought the property on Feb. 23...
Needle exchange program could expand to Palm Beach County

Needle exchange program could expand to Palm Beach County

An effort to expand a needle-exchange program statewide was scrapped Tuesday by a House health care committee, but the committee did agree to extend the Miami-Dade County program to Palm Beach and Broward counties. The bill (HB 579) initially called for expanding statewide a pilot needle-exchange program run by the University of Miami in Miami-Dade County. The initial version of the bill also would...
NEW: Overdosing couple’s children shouted, “Wake up!’, Boynton police say

NEW: Overdosing couple’s children shouted, “Wake up!’, Boynton police say

Police have charged a couple with child neglect after police found the two overdosed on drugs and their 4-year-old twin boys frantically screaming for them to wake up, Boynton Beach police said Monday. Andrew Otto, 35, and Lauren James, 30, were booked Friday afternoon into the Palm Beach County Jail, charged with two counts each of child neglect. The two were released Saturday afternoon after posting...
Rader seeks $25 million more in Senate for fighting opioid epidemic

Rader seeks $25 million more in Senate for fighting opioid epidemic

Two Democratic senators are pushing to increase by $25 million the amount of funding the Senate has committed to addressing the state’s opioid problems in the upcoming year. Sen. Kevin Rader praised Senate leaders for proposing to spend $100 million on mental-health services and school-safety programs in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting last week that left 17 people...
Scott to sign bill putting statue of black educator in U.S. Capitol

Scott to sign bill putting statue of black educator in U.S. Capitol

Gov. Rick Scott plans to sign a bill that would lead to a statue of civil-rights leader and educator Mary McLeod Bethune replacing the likeness of a Confederate general as a representative of Florida in the U.S. Capitol. The Florida House voted 111-1 on Tuesday to support placing the statue of Bethune in the National Statuary Hall in Washington, replacing Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith. Rep....
Florida Medicaid program limits opioid prescriptions

Florida Medicaid program limits opioid prescriptions

As lawmakers consider proposals to limit opioid prescriptions, Gov. Rick Scott’s administration is taking steps to do the same in the Florida Medicaid program. The Agency for Health Care Administration announced last week that, effective Monday, prescriptions for narcotics in the Medicaid program will be limited to a maximum seven-day supply. Medicaid also is no longer requiring prior authorization...
Editorial: Don’t let site setback derail county’s drug treatment aims

Editorial: Don’t let site setback derail county’s drug treatment aims

The news that a planned emergency room for opioid overdoses has been delayed because of problems with the site is disappointing — but not disheartening. On the contrary, it tells us Palm Beach County officials are intent on making drug treatment a key element in their fight against the opioid epidemic, the killer that claimed 600 lives here last year. And that’s rare. How rare? Well, President...
Lack of site delays PBC emergency room dedicated to opioid overdoses

Lack of site delays PBC emergency room dedicated to opioid overdoses

A plan to open an emergency room dedicated exclusively to opioid overdoses suffered an unexpected setback this week when inspectors rejected the county’s first proposed site. Born of a brainstorming session, the proposed Addiction Stabilization Facility promises to be a “cutting edge” way to address an epidemic that is killing thousands across the United States, including 600 people...
NEW: Raising awareness of opioid ODs aim of new Boynton police video

NEW: Raising awareness of opioid ODs aim of new Boynton police video

A young woman sitting in her car lights up a piece of tin foil and injects a needle into her arm moments later. A police officer arrives and finds the woman passed out. The woman is rushed to a hospital, but not in time. She is dead. The scenario seen in a video released by the Boynton Beach Police Department on Friday morning was just a reenactment. But it is one of a scene that has become increasingly...
NEW: St. Lucie County Sheriff arrests 42 in ‘Big Mi-Steak’ drug sting 

NEW: St. Lucie County Sheriff arrests 42 in ‘Big Mi-Steak’ drug sting 

A long-term, undercover drug investigation led to 42 arrests in St. Lucie County, according to the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office.  The operation, called “Big Mi-Steak,” lasted seven months and resulted in the confiscation of fentanyl, heroin, cocaine, and marijuana.  Deputies also arrested four drug dealers responsible for the majority of drug deals in the county...
Police warning of dangerous new substances used to lace heroin, fentanyl

Police warning of dangerous new substances used to lace heroin, fentanyl

Law enforcement officials in northern Ohio are warning police agencies throughout the state about two substances dealers are using to lace heroin and fentanyl -- a powder called "Rizzy" and an analgesic substance called Bromadol.  >> Read more trending news  Rizzy is believed to cause flesh to rot and Bromadol is so powerful that specific side effects are not known. ...
Florida House budget plan has $50 million for opioid battle

Florida House budget plan has $50 million for opioid battle

The Florida House wants to target $50 million toward opioid treatment and prevention in the upcoming year and spend about $1 million on a statewide prescription-drug database, the top House health-care budget writer said Tuesday. Health Care Appropriations Chairman Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, rolled out a proposed $36.9 billion spending plan for health and human-services programs in the 2018-2019 fiscal...
Schnellenberger son, a former addict, aims to help others

Schnellenberger son, a former addict, aims to help others

Long before the U.S. was gripped in its current opioid epidemic, Tim Schnellenberger had battled — and recovered from — his own substance addiction. Now 50 and recently married, Schnellenberger — one of legendary football coach Howard Schnellenberger’s three sons — attained sobriety in 2000 and has been on a mission ever since to help others get sober. Tim’s brother...
Florida doctors wary of proposed painkiller prescription limits

Florida doctors wary of proposed painkiller prescription limits

Surgeons complain it’s too restrictive for patients who undergo major heart surgery or hip replacement. Emergency room doctors gripe they don’t have the time or resources to comply. And pharmacists say it needs to be tweaked. But the litany of suggestions offered by health care professionals over the past few weeks has done nothing to persuade key lawmakers to change a sweeping measure...
Editorial: Opioid-addicted babies collateral damage in drug epidemic

Editorial: Opioid-addicted babies collateral damage in drug epidemic

The most tragic, innocent casualties of the opioid crisis are lying in bassinets in hospitals like St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach. Screaming babies, bodies trembling from withdrawal, born to opioid-addicted mothers. Maybe they’re not as headline-grabbing as tales of children discovered in the backseats of cars with their parents passed out from drug overdoses in the front...
Palm Beach County legislators hopeful on bills to combat opioid crisis

Palm Beach County legislators hopeful on bills to combat opioid crisis

Battling the opioid epidemic is getting lots of attention during the 2018 legislative session – and that’s good news for Palm Beach County. On Tuesday, Gov. Rick Scott restated his proposal to put up $53 million to help crush the heroin crisis. The next day, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam told a group of Palm Beach County business and community leaders that if elected governor he...
NEW: Jupiter heroin-related first-half ‘17 overdose numbers released

NEW: Jupiter heroin-related first-half ‘17 overdose numbers released

Last year’s spike in numbers of heroin-related overdoses in Jupiter shows the opioid epidemic is tightening its grim grip — at least in the first half of 2017. Calls to Jupiter police on heroin overdoses increased more than 400 percent last year between January and July compared to the same period in 2016. Eight died from heroin-related overdoses during the first seven months of last year...
BREAKING: Two from Wellington plead guilty to sober-home fraud scheme

BREAKING: Two from Wellington plead guilty to sober-home fraud scheme

Two Wellington residents are facing prison terms after they pleaded guilty in U.S. Federal Court to participating in a multimillion-dollar insurance fraud and money-laundering scheme connected to their ownership of sober homes and a drug-treatment center, the Justice Department said Friday. Tovah Lynn Jasperson, 48, and Alan Martin Bostom, 75, were the owners of Angel’s Recovery, an alcohol-...
Sex-scandal issues cloud pomp of Florida Legislature’s opening day

Sex-scandal issues cloud pomp of Florida Legislature’s opening day

On Tuesday, Florida’s outgoing Republican governor detailed a wish list costing millions while the House speaker laid down the gauntlet against tax increases. Meanwhile, the Senate president put forth a hard stance against sexual harassment just as a fresh sex-related scandal involving two members of his chamber was unfolding. The 2018 Florida Legislature officially is in session. Opening day...
Police: Man who died from opioid OD paid dealer’s light bill for drugs

Police: Man who died from opioid OD paid dealer’s light bill for drugs

Travis Tekel would fix computers, hack credit cards, pay bills — anything for some heroin caps and a stick of Xanax. The 28-year-old was a computer genius with an opioid addiction and the brains to fuel it. Like an increasing number of addicts, Tekel died June 1 of a carfentanil overdose just hours after he’d paid a woman’s electric bill in exchange for what he likely thought was...

POINT OF VIEW: One action can help reverse the opioid epidemic

Across the nation, millions of families spent the holiday season mourning the loss of children, parents and other loved ones. As holiday shopping commenced, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that Americans are dying younger — an unprecedented and frightening trend not seen since the 1960s. All because of an epidemic that is nothing short of a national emergency...
Editorial: Other cities should join Delray lawsuit against Big Pharma

Editorial: Other cities should join Delray lawsuit against Big Pharma

The city of Delray Beach has had enough of the opioid crisis. And now, tired of draining its resources against a devastating drug scourge, city officials have taken the audacious step of suing Big Pharma in federal court. The legal action is a long-overdue attempt to recoup millions for fighting a national epidemic. It’s the first Florida city to join a growing number of communities across the...
Overdose deaths expected to rise, but not dramatically, in 2017

Overdose deaths expected to rise, but not dramatically, in 2017

Deaths from opioid overdoses in Palm Beach County during 2017 are expected to exceed those in 2016, but the jump won’t be nearly as drastic as in previous years. That’s the good news — and the bad — for an epidemic so epic that it has single-handedly reduced life expectancy in the United States. “I don’t know why the increase isn’t as big, and I...
Overdose deaths expected to rise, but not dramatically, in 2017

Overdose deaths expected to rise, but not dramatically, in 2017

Deaths from opioid overdoses in Palm Beach County during 2017 are expected to exceed those in 2016, but the jump won’t be nearly as drastic as in previous years. That’s the good news — and the bad — for an epidemic so epic that it has single-handedly reduced life expectancy in the United States. “I don’t know why the increase isn’t as big, and I...
Editorial: 2018 is time to move from all talk to more action

Editorial: 2018 is time to move from all talk to more action

If talking is the measure of tackling a major issue, 2017 was a year of progress in Palm Beach County. For example, the economic perils of a lack of workforce housing — helped by ever-tightening supply and Millennials’ complaints of sky-high rents — is no longer a tabled discussion. And overdose deaths, thanks in part to The Palm Beach Post’s own coverage, have moved from unheard...
Miracle plant or threat? Kratom users say it helps addiction, pain

Miracle plant or threat? Kratom users say it helps addiction, pain

Ali Noble is a Boynton Beach-area mom of a 2-year-old boy, a recovered opioid addict and a frequent victim of panic attacks. She credits her sobriety and serenity to working the 12 steps and a little green leaf getting a lot of attention from the federal government in the past few years — kratom. When she left substance abuse treatment in September 2014, like many recovered opioid addicts, she...
Trump, Tiger, clown killer: Top 10 Palm Beach County stories of 2017

Trump, Tiger, clown killer: Top 10 Palm Beach County stories of 2017

Storms were major news in Palm Beach County in 2017, from the glancing blow dealt by Hurricane Irma to the tumult surrounding visits from our most famous part-time resident, President Donald Trump. The county’s top ten stories of the year include an arrest in a sensational 27-year-old murder case and the prison sentence that put an end to the career of one of the most notorious figures in the...
Human teeth, heroin, gun found on alleged Walmart shoplifter

Human teeth, heroin, gun found on alleged Walmart shoplifter

South Carolina authorities are investigating an alleged shoplifter arrested at a Myrtle Beach-area Walmart after discovering human teeth, drugs, and a gun on him, according to local news outlets. >> Read more trending news  Police discovered more than 3,000 doses of heroin, marijuana and pills on suspect Tavon Malik Stanley, 21, of Calabash, North Carolina, according to the...
Christie: Are we painting PBC sober homes with too broad a brush?

Christie: Are we painting PBC sober homes with too broad a brush?

Matthew Anderson talks with his attorney during a court hearing in May. Anderson, owner of two Palm Beach County sober homes where police responded to 28 calls last year — including six overdoses — was arrested on multiple counts of patient brokering. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post) As Palm Beach County seems to sink further into an opioid crisis that...

POINT OF VIEW: Treatment is vital to addicts’ recovery

Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg testified recently to Congress about sober home abuses. While politicians, prosecutors and many others often speak about the two interchangeably, a sober living facility (aka sober home) is not the same as a substance use disorder treatment center (aka rehab, treatment center). Sober homes are group homes where people who are in recovery live together...
Fentanyl killing more in Florida than heroin: CDC report

Fentanyl killing more in Florida than heroin: CDC report

Drugs like fentanyl are now killing Floridians far faster than heroin and, as America’s opioid epidemic worsened, more Americans died from drug overdoses in one year than were killed in all of the Vietnam War, figures released this week show. The data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that 1,566 Floridians died from a class of drugs that includes fentanyl in 2016...
Post reporters win anti-fraud coalition’s award for sober home coverage

Post reporters win anti-fraud coalition’s award for sober home coverage

The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, a Washington-based policy and research group, awarded its inaugural journalism award for fraud reporting to The Palm Beach Post for its work on fraud in the sober-home industry. Post investigative reporters Pat Beall and Christine Stapleton accepted the award Tuesday at the coalition’s annual meeting in Washington. The coalition praised The Post’s...
NEW: Doctor accused of prescribing drugs without exams arrested again

NEW: Doctor accused of prescribing drugs without exams arrested again

A 73-year-old doctor who was arrested in April for prescribing pain killers for cash and whose medical license suspended in October was arrested again this week, according to authorities. Peter Katz, who practices family medicine in Boynton Beach, was arrested Wednesday on charges of unlawful prescription and fraud, among others. The arrest comes after the Florida Department of Health issued an emergency...
NEW: Man faces trafficking charges as fentanyl, pills found in locker

NEW: Man faces trafficking charges as fentanyl, pills found in locker

A Wellington man is facing drug trafficking charges after investigators found stashes of drugs including fentanyl, cocaine, Adderall and marijuana in a storage locker he rented in suburban Boca Raton, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office said. Jason Daniel Miller, 39, is being held at the Palm Beach County Jail and faces multiple drug trafficking charges and multiple charges of drug posession...
State Attorney Dave Aronberg testifies before House panel on opioids

State Attorney Dave Aronberg testifies before House panel on opioids

The congressional representatives sitting on the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations wanted to hear about patient brokering and sober home fraud. Tuesday morning, they got an earful from Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg and his chief assistant, Al Johnson. “We have had a surge of unscrupulous individuals who prey on addicts,” said Aronberg. &ldquo...
POINT OF VIEW: The untold story of the opioid crisis

POINT OF VIEW: The untold story of the opioid crisis

The Palm Beach Post’s Nov. 15 story, “Why Palm Beach County is the ‘epicenter’ of the deadly opioid crisis,” bluntly lays out a significant tragedy occurring right outside our front doors. While the devastating number of deadly overdoses in our county – 571 last year – is certainly a crisis, my mind quickly shifts to those left behind. How many thousands have...
Opioid crisis: Palm Beach County looking for firms for Big Pharma suit

Opioid crisis: Palm Beach County looking for firms for Big Pharma suit

Want to represent Palm Beach County if it goes toe to toe with Big Pharma? Law firms could soon have that opportunity. Commissioners voted 7-0 Tuesday to have County Attorney Denise Nieman’s office begin crafting a request for proposals from firms that would represent the county should it decide to file suit against drug companies, manufacturers or pharmacies as part of its effort to combat...
If Palm Beach County sues big Pharma, 14 law firms interested

If Palm Beach County sues big Pharma, 14 law firms interested

Fourteen law firms — including seven based in Florida — have expressed an interest in representing Palm Beach County if it decides to file suit against opioid manufacturers, distributors or pharmacies, according to a report prepared by the county attorney’s office. At the suggestion of County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay, whose former aide lost a daughter to the opioid...

POINT OF VIEW: Destigmatizing mental health in the legal profession

It was only October that the legal community lost one of our most vocal champions for mental health. As executive director of Florida Lawyers Assistance Inc., Michael Cohen spent the past 20 years advocating for attorneys struggling with substance abuse and mental illness. He also spent this same time recovering from his own battle with addiction. Cohen was a safety net to so many in need. My hope...
Florida man shoots up heroin during car chase, deputies say

Florida man shoots up heroin during car chase, deputies say

A Marion County man was arrested on suspicion of stealing a family member’s car, but it was what he was doing inside the car that got him deeper in trouble, deputies said. Deputies tried arresting John Quincey Stephens on Monday on a felony warrant at a family member’s home in Silver Springs, deputies said. Stephens stole the family’s vehicle and fled, deputies said. Stephens...
NEW: Accused drug dealer warns of heroin ‘dropping’ people ‘like crazy’

NEW: Accused drug dealer warns of heroin ‘dropping’ people ‘like crazy’

A Stuart man’s attempt to sell heroin Wednesday night did not go as he had hoped, the Martin County Sheriff’s Office said. Instead, Charles Earl Zureich was overcome with emotion as he was taken into custody by sheriff’s detectives during an undercover drug transaction. He was taken to a hospital for observation before being booked into the Martin County Jail, the sheriff’s...
Opioid addiction wrecked my family, mother says

Opioid addiction wrecked my family, mother says

A grieving Jacksonville mother is sharing a powerful lesson about opioid addiction.  “My son would have sold my soul for his next high,” Mary Purvis said. “That's just how bad he had gotten." Purvis says the mother of her grandchildren was recently killed — and her son was shot.  Now, her son is missing.  For years, Purvis tried to help her son, Roy...

POINT OF VIEW: We can make it less profitable to traffic opioids

The president has declared what many of us experience first hand, the opioid epidemic is a national emergency. Frankly, with as many as 59,000 deaths in 2016, there doesn’t seem to be any other possible description. So many dedicated people in cities and towns, faith communities and schools, families and hospitals are fighting to save lives and help people escape addiction. But there are also...
Deadly kratom could add to opioid epidemic, FDA official says

Deadly kratom could add to opioid epidemic, FDA official says

The government — whether its federal, state or local — can’t seem to make up its mind about kratom, a substance sold at head shops, gas stations and kava bars that a Palm Beach County mother blames for her son’s death. Advocates say it can be a tool in fighting the opioid epidemic and is a safe pain reliever. Now the Food and Drug Administration has entered the mix, issuing...
Overdose-proof opioid? Scripps’ new drug could reduce deaths

Overdose-proof opioid? Scripps’ new drug could reduce deaths

Solving opioid addiction remains elusive as ever as doctors rely on weaning those physically and psychologically dependant on the drugs through troubling substitutes such as methadone and buprenorphine, which can be addictive in their own right. The lack of such a magic pill is readily apparent in the overflowing 12-step rooms and bodies piling up at the morgue from fatal overdoses. But Laura Bohn...
Heroin dealer convicted of manslaughter after buyer fatally overdoses 

Heroin dealer convicted of manslaughter after buyer fatally overdoses 

A drug dealer was convicted of involuntary manslaughter after selling heroin to a man who later died of an overdose from the opioid.  April Thomas Guthrie, 34, was also convicted of delivery of heroin and was sentenced to three to five years, according to WNCT.  Kendal Walbert died of a heroin overdose in August 2014 after buying heroin from Thomas and co-defendant Michael Becker, who...
Boynton doctor practiced for 7 months after drug arrest, 4 OD deaths

Boynton doctor practiced for 7 months after drug arrest, 4 OD deaths

Eighteen months ago, Boynton Beach Dr. Peter Katz took in an ex-patient — a homeless opioid addict. She overdosed in his home, dying later in the hospital. She was the fourth patient of his to die of an overdose in a two-year period, state health department documents show. Law enforcement caught up with Katz about eight months ago, charging him with unlawful prescribing of an opioid after Katz...
Why Palm Beach County is the ‘epicenter’ of the deadly opioid crisis

Why Palm Beach County is the ‘epicenter’ of the deadly opioid crisis

The opioid epidemic gripping the state hit epic proportions in 2016 with the largest number of heroin-related overdose deaths found in Palm Beach County for the second year in a row, according to a Palm Beach Post analysis of state death data released on Wednesday. It is a crisis driven by deadly fentanyl, a synthetic painkiller said to be 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. Like throwing gasoline...
Mayor: State of county good but housing scarcity, opioids of concern

Mayor: State of county good but housing scarcity, opioids of concern

Palm Beach County’s economy is thriving, but the continuing scarcity of affordable housing and the spiraling opioid crisis are major concerns, County Mayor Paulette Burdick said Wednesday morning in her “State of the County” address. “Things are good in Palm Beach County,” Burdick said, “but we have some emerging issues.” Burdick noted that the county has...

POINT OF VIEW: Reduce the health care system’s dependence on opioids

There is good news to report in the battle to fight the opioid epidemic, and it’s coming from the people whose job it is to treat pain. We’re seeing the beginnings of a national, strategic approach from health care providers to rethink how pain is treated, supported by a variety of promising regional and local initiatives. There isn’t a moment to waste. The latest annual National...
DEA: Doctor dismissive of Wellington’s woman OD death from his fentanyl

DEA: Doctor dismissive of Wellington’s woman OD death from his fentanyl

When Dr. Johnny Clyde Benjamin heard one of his homemade fentanyl pills disguised as oxycodone killed a Wellington woman, he retorted that she was just another “page in a large stack,” according to court documents. The Vero Beach spinal surgeon “did not seem too concerned about the death caused by the pills,” according to a special agent of the Drug Enforcement Administration...
Doctor in Kenny Chatman case gets 4-year prison sentence

Doctor in Kenny Chatman case gets 4-year prison sentence

The last holdout in the notorious Kenny Chatman drug-treatment fraud case was sentenced Tuesday to four years in federal prison, short of the time prosecutors sought. Dr. Joaquin Mendez was the medical director for Chatman’s Reflections Treatment Center in Margate between September 2014 and September 2015, responsible for seeing patients and deciding their medical care. But he admitted...
NEW: West Palm man sentenced for distributing fentanyl-laced heroin

NEW: West Palm man sentenced for distributing fentanyl-laced heroin

A West Palm Beach man has been sentenced to more then eight years in federal prison for distributing fentanyl-laced heroin that resulted in the death of a 24-year-old New Jersey man, the U.S. Justice Department announced Tuesday. Travis Reshard Preston, 38, was found guilty of five counts of distributing heroin to an undercover officer in August. Preston was sentenced to 102 months in prison, followed...
Lake Park man allegedly robbed neighbor’s home during Hurricane Irma

Lake Park man allegedly robbed neighbor’s home during Hurricane Irma

A Lake Park man is facing charges after he allegedly broke into a neighbor’s home and stole computers and TVs the day after Hurricane Irma struck South Florida, according to an arrest report. Justin Cantrell, 27, is facing charges of burglary of a dwelling during a state of emergency and grand theft between $300 and $5,000. Cantrell’s bail has not been set because he refused to show up...

POINT OF VIEW: The FDA is the one taking the opioid crisis seriously

The White House has so far completely botched the national response to the opioid epidemic. More than two months after President Donald Trump described the epidemic to reporters as a “national emergency” and a week after Trump promised to declare it so, the White House stopped short of that designation. Instead, it opted to declare a “public health emergency,” waiving some...
Mother finds heroin in 3-year-old’s Halloween Candy, police launch investigation

Mother finds heroin in 3-year-old’s Halloween Candy, police launch investigation

Authorities in Fayette County, West Virginia have launched an investigation after a woman found a packet of heroin in her 3-year-old child’s Halloween candy. Oak Hill Police Chief Mike Whisman said the woman was checking her child’s candy when she discovered a glove containing a wrapper with a substance inside, according to local news outlets. Investigators performed tests and confirmed...
Chatman drops appeal in sex trafficking, drug treatment fraud case

Chatman drops appeal in sex trafficking, drug treatment fraud case

Kenny Chatman, who trafficked women through his chain of corrupt sober homes and drug treatment centers, is no longer fighting his 27-year federal prison sentence. In court documents filed this month, his lawyer dropped his appeal, meaning Chatman likely will serve out the entirety of his sentence. He’ll be 74 when he’s released. Although Chatman forfeited the right to appeal his...
New father accused of selling heroin from maternity ward

New father accused of selling heroin from maternity ward

A new dad is accused of selling heroin from his family's room in the maternity ward. Cody Hulse's child was born Thursday and police say a few hours later, Hulse was arrested on accusations he was selling heroin out of the maternity ward.  Only Channel 11 was there as Hulse faced a judge Friday. On his way to jail, Channel 11 asked him what he had to say about the allegations. "I have an...
No water or power? No problem for addicts using drugs in treatment

No water or power? No problem for addicts using drugs in treatment

Addicts living in sober homes operated by Bradley Vercosa complained that sometimes there was no running water, electricity, sheets, bowls or pillows but they stayed anyway because they paid no rent and were allowed to use drugs, according to a police report. Vercosa, 50, of Wellington, was one of six people arrested Thursday and charged with patient brokering, which includes accepting referral...
UPDATE: Sober home task force arrests six; total now tops 40

UPDATE: Sober home task force arrests six; total now tops 40

The Palm Beach County Sober Home Task Force arrested six sober home operators on patient brokering charges Thursday, including one who once worked for the Florida Association of Recovery Residences — the state contracted non-profit that certifies sober homes. All of the arrests are byproducts of cases filed earlier this year against the owners of treatment centers accused of paying sober...
Medical society joins fight against opioid epidemic in PBC

Medical society joins fight against opioid epidemic in PBC

After an unprecedented 590 opioid-related deaths in Palm Beach County in 2016, Palm Beach County doctors are joining the battle as a group against the opioid epidemic. The Palm Beach County Medical Society Services, a nonprofit that coordinates education and volunteer activities of the county Medical Society, held its first meeting this week to begin working on a medical plan to prevent overdose...
Bills seek pain prescription limits and help for addicted babies

Bills seek pain prescription limits and help for addicted babies

A bipartisan effort to combat the opioid epidemic is underway in Tallahassee with lawmakers having filed five bills that address the crisis from multiple fronts. Prescriptions - SB 458, filed by Sen. Aaron Beach, R-Jacksonville, would limit opioid prescriptions for temporary pain. The bill would allow a 30-day renewal of an opioid prescription after the initial seven-day prescription. The bill...
Best friend’s death inspires college scholarship for women in recovery

Best friend’s death inspires college scholarship for women in recovery

They were best friends since childhood, sticking together through good times and bad — from sleepovers, school dances and concerts to helping each other through their struggles with drug addiction. Amanda Marino went into recovery in 2007. She says she has been clean ever since. Her best friend, Kimberly Kinkle, fought hard to get sober. She was eight months clean when she relapsed...
Editorial: Florida needs to cap days that patients are put on opioids

Editorial: Florida needs to cap days that patients are put on opioids

It’s good to see Florida leaders join the growing trend toward limiting prescriptions for opioid painkillers. Last week, Gov. Rick Scott said he’ll ask lawmakers to impose a three-day limit on opioid prescriptions. A day later, Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg announced he’ll seek a five-day limit when the Legislature convenes in January, a proposal hatched by the county&rsquo...
Should Florida use fentanyl to execute Death Row inmates?

Should Florida use fentanyl to execute Death Row inmates?

The deadliest drug in the nation’s opioid epidemic — fentanyl — will be used to execute a death row inmate in Nevada in November. Barring a court order halting the execution, it will be the first time the deadly painkiller will be used in an execution and will be one of three drugs used to execute Scott Raymond Dozier, 46. Dozier was sentenced to death for killing a 22-year-old man...
Possible plea deal in the works for Delray Beach sober home operator Eric Snyder

Possible plea deal in the works for Delray Beach sober home operator Eric Snyder

A preliminary hearing in federal court  for   Eric Snyder, owner and operator of a Delray Beach drug treatment center and sober home raided by the FBI in December 2014, has been delayed for 30 days to give attorneys time to “consider whether or not a pre-indictment resolution” can be worked out. Snyder was arrested on July 11 and charged with fraudulently...

POINT OF VIEW: How insurers can help fight the opioid epidemic

Of the 98 million Americans who take prescription opioids each year, almost 3 million receive their prescriptions from five to as many as 20 physicians. The practice, often called “doctor shopping,” allows opioid-addicted individuals to consume an enormous and dangerous number of pills with the unwitting help of doctors. Doctor shopping also lets drug dealers use the health care system...
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