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Heroin Task Force Pledges Quick Response

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Orange County Government
The Florida Channel
Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs on Monday was joined by timeshare magnate David Siegel at Monday's introduction of a heroin task force.

The first meeting of a multi-agency task force to combat Orange County’s growing heroin problem was punctuated by Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs promising a quick response to an spike in heroin overdoses and deaths. 

“This is going to be a very expedited process,” Jacobs said. “We’re going to spend approximately six months. This task force is not going to meet for six years. … So this is a matter of utmost urgency.”

Heroin has overtaken cocaine as the deadliest street drug in Orange County. This past weekend alone, the Orange County deputies responded to 11 calls for suspected heroin overdoses. In the last week, there have been three deaths.

In fact, during Monday's news conference, Orange County law enforcement officers were responding to a suspected overdose near Orange Blossom Trail.

“I would be kidding myself if I thought that we could totally solve this simply by an enforcement strategy,” said Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings. “It has to have the awareness and prevention and intervention and treatment modes as well.”

Orlando timeshare magnate David Siegel is turning his considerable influence and fortune toward drug overdoses. Siegel addressed the task force, saying he wants random drug testing to be implemented at middle schools, high schools and universities.

“The only way we’re going to cut out the drug usage or lessen it is the fear of getting caught,” Siegel said. “And that’s what a random drug test does.”

Siegel also wants to unite families who have lost children to drug overdose into “one loud voice.” Siegel’s daughter died of an accidental drug overdose in June.

The task force will meet for the next six months, and includes representatives from health care, treatment, government and law enforcement.

Abe Aboraya is a reporter with WMFEin Orlando. WMFE is a partner with Health News Florida, which receives support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Health News Florida reporter Abe Aboraya works for WMFE in Orlando. He started writing for newspapers in high school. After graduating from the University of Central Florida in 2007, he spent a year traveling and working as a freelance reporter for the Seattle Times and the Seattle Weekly, and working for local news websites in the San Francisco Bay area. Most recently Abe worked as a reporter for the Orlando Business Journal. He comes from a family of health care workers.