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Central Florida Heroin Epidemic Reaches Capitol Hill

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Committee on Oversight & Government Reform.
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Mayor Teresa Jacobs speaks before lawmakers in Washington, D.C.

Central Florida’s heroin epidemic has reached Capitol Hill lawmakers.

At a National Oversight Committee Hearing chaired by Florida Congressman John Mica, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs discussed ways that local government officials, law enforcement and medical specialists in the region are working together to tackle rising death tolls.

There were 101 heroin-related deaths in Orange and Osceola counties in 2015, according to the Ninth District medical examiner. That number is up dramatically from the 19 heroin-related deaths in 2011.

Orange County’s heroin task force just wrapped up with 37 recommendations that include increasing bond requirements for traffickers, allotting more funding for in-jail detox programs, and a social media campaign to show the dangers of using heroin.

Treatment, Jacob says, is a critical important component now that heroin has replaced opioids as the region’s drug du jour.  However, she stresses the need for federal dollars for area’s like Orange County to implement long-term, effective solutions.

“Local treatment and law enforcement will do their part, but the federal government must do everything possible to keep this plague from our communities,” Jacobs said. “Help us treat more addicts. We need you to continue to expand your efforts to stop these deadly drugs before they enter our communities.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports more than 11,000 heroin-related deaths last year. That number is projected to increase.

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Renata Sago is a reporter with WMFE in Orlando. WMFE  is a partner with Health News Florida, which receives support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.