Deaths from heroin and fentanyl overdoses have more than doubled in unincorporated Orange County.
Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings says the sheriff’s office has responded to more than 160 heroin overdoses in the first three months of 2017 alone – a 132 percent increase over last year.
“In 2017 we’ve had 17 such deaths in Orange County, compared to 8 last year,” Demings says. “That’s a 113 percent increase in the number of heroin related deaths we’re talking about.”
Demings said he’s hopeful the Florida Legislature will criminalize trafficking in fentanyl before the session ends Friday. Demings spoke to a panel in Orlando with state agencies looking at the Florida opioid epidemic. That group is heading across the state to see what local communities need to fight the opioid epidemic.
Don Ladner, the deputy commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, said his agency is focusing on heroin and fentanyl traffickers. The department’s focus will be on dealers and doctors who are making a profit off the epidemic, and not those who are addicted.
“And let me be clear: There’s no way law enforcement, and we’ve heard this all across the state, thinks you can arrest your way out of this problem,” Ladner says. “You cannot. You need to address addiction as what it is, addiction, and try to help those individuals.”
The statewide heroin workshops continue tomorrow in Jacksonville. Gov. Rick Scott is facing criticism for not declaring a state of emergency for the opioid crisis.