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Congresswoman: Opioid Overdose Epidemic Is 'Like A Carnage Of Humanity'

Peter Haden
Public, private and government leaders discuss the opioid overdose crisis at Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce on Dec. 9, 2016.

What can be done to stem the epidemic of opioid overdoses in South Florida?

That was the question discussed at a roundtable discussion Friday of police, firefighters, doctors, drug abuse counselors and public officials at the Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce.

Assistant State Attorney Al Johnson described the situation as catastrophic. He gave the example of Palm Beach County Fire Rescue Department, where  first responders have answered  about 4,000 overdose calls in 2016, he said. At around $1,000 per call, the public cost totals around $4 million. Delray Beach Fire Rescue has implemented mental health counseling for its firefighters.

“I heard things today that I probably never thought about,” said U.S. Congresswoman Lois Frankel (D-FL) “For example, the traumatic effect on rescue workers - firefighters and police who are having to deal with all these deaths almost every single day. The number of people who are overdosing. Just repeated over and over. It’s almost like a carnage of humanity.”

Delray Beach Fire Rescue Chief Neil De Jesus says more than 90 percent of his department’s overdose calls are to sober living facilities.

The Palm Beach County Sober Homes Task Force will issue a report with recommendations to the state legislature in early January.