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Sundial

The Opioid Crisis, Restaurants Have Changed Forever, How Holiday Traditions Can Help Your Mental Health

Restaurant tables and umbrellas out on the street, where cars usually drive on. A man on a bicycle passes by.
Al Diaz
/
Miami Herald
Seating at Pink Taco expands onto closed-off Ocean Drive in South Beach on Wednesday, May 27, 2020.

A local organization just received $1 million to continue fighting the opioid pandemic. Dining has changed forever as a result of the pandemic. What does that future look like? And why you should continue your holiday traditions safely and maybe even start new ones.

On this Wednesday, Dec. 16, episode of Sundial:

The Opioid Crisis

COVID-19 has been a public health crisis on an unimaginable scale, claiming the lives of more than 20,000 Floridians.

While it continues to rage on, another public health crisis continues under the radar — the opioid epidemic.

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This addiction has ravaged communities across the state and the pandemic appears to have exacerbated the problem. The rise in unemployment, social isolation and reduction in services available for help are all leading to higher rates of substance abuse.

“Sometimes we’re throwing good money away,” said Okeechobee Sheriff Noel Stephen on Sundial. “We’re paying $20 million a year for me to do law enforcement services and there’s nothing there for education or rehabilitation or recovery and I really think we need to evaluate the whole system as a whole and try to better use our taxpayer dollars.”

Organizations like the Hanley Foundation in West Palm Beach provide substance abuse prevention and education programs to fill that gap. They recently received a $1 million grant from the federal government to continue combating the opioid crisis in the rural parts of central Florida.

“We do know with all certainty that every dollar we spend in treatment saves society between $4 and $7 in drug-related costs,” said Ryan Wertepny, the chief program officer for the Hanley Foundation. “We need to start investing in prevention. We need to stop the problem of addiction before it starts.”

The Opioid Crisis
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 140 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.

Restaurants Have Changed Forever

The pandemic forced the shutdown of many restaurants and hundreds of thousands of restaurant workers in the industry were either furloughed or laid off.

Many are making a comeback — with limitations. Restaurants are choosing to operate at 50 to 70% capacity, that’s not enough to stay in business in an industry with such small margins.

“The governor has made it harder for local municipalities to make restrictions, so restaurants really can open at 100 percent capacity. It's basically leaving it up to the restaurant owners to decide how much social distance they want to impose. It's a little bit of a 'Wild West' situation out there when you go out to dine. That makes it a little bit difficult for people to know what to expect when they get to a restaurant,” said Carlos Frias, the Miami Herald’s food editor.

Restaurants that have been able to pivot quickly, and make it easier for customers to purchase take-out or delivery, have been able to better weather the pandemic. Some parts of the industry, such as butcher shops are actually doing well in the pandemic as they’re now competing with more high-end restaurants.

Others have turned to more innovative strategies, like ghost kitchens to make enough profits to stay in business.

Frias also talked about food over the holidays, where you can order the best holiday feast and vegan coquito.

Restaurants Have Changed Forever
Going to a restaurant

How Holiday Traditions Can Help Your Mental Health

The pandemic has canceled many things — parties, travel, even hugs.

But not the holidays. Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, whatever you celebrate — they’re not canceled.

Although, they might be a little different this year. Whether that’s lighting the menorah on Zoom, celebrating the principles of Kwanzaa outdoors or putting up your Christmas lights extra early this year.

“[Traditions] are really the structure and the foundation of our families and our society. It's really kind of part of our history. It defines our past, it shapes who we are and maybe who we're going to become. So it's really it defines us. And it's really important that we keep them and all costs,” said Dr. Arthur Bregman, who was the chief of psychiatry at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital for several decades and is now in private practice at Bregman Medical Group.

Bregman added that the pandemic has affected everyone’s mental health in different ways and continuing traditions safely or creating new traditions this holiday season can have a positive impact on anxiety, depression and other negative mental health issues.

How Holiday Traditions Can Help Your Mental Health
Medellín, Colombia is famous for its Christmas lights.

Leslie Ovalle produces WLRN's daily magazine program, Sundial. She previously produced Morning Edition newscasts at WLRN and anchored the midday news. As a multimedia producer, she also works on visual and digital storytelling.
Suria is Sundial's fall 2020 high school intern and a production assistant.