JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam on Wednesday met with patients in recovery and heard from families who have been impacted by Florida's opioid crisis.
The roundtable event held at Gateway Community Services in Jacksonville was Putnam's second stop on his statewide tour focused on opioids.
"It is a multi-headed monster that is eroding our society," Putnam said in his opening remarks. "I'm here to learn about what you are doing and to discuss how we can work together to solve this problem so we can rescue a generation of Floridians from the grips of opioids."
Putnam, who is also one of the Republicans running for governor, listened as patients and families shared their stories. They included first responders, law enforcement officers, doctors, rehabilitation specialists and leaders in the community who are working to save lives through prevention and education.
“This is a health care crisis that has risen to a magnitude that Florida has never seen, and we must do everything we can to stop it," Dr. Raymond Pomm with Medical Director at Gateway Community Services said. "Adam Putnam has proven he’s not afraid to tackle the big problems, and we’ll be glad to have him in the Governor’s office working to help us solve this challenge.”
One of the efforts highlighted at the roundtable was "Project Save Lives," a pilot program in Duval County that provides specialized, coordinated and seamless services for the treatment of opioid addiction and misuse, thereby reducing dependence on opioid drugs.
Targeted services are provided by healthcare providers and include stabilization and treatment for withdrawal, connection to a Recovery Peer Specialist, medication-assisted therapy and seamless transfer to outpatient treatment.
The program and its services are provided through a partnership with the City of Jacksonville, River Region Human Services, Gateway Community Services, UF Health and St. Vincent’s Medical Center – Riverside.
Deaths in Florida caused by opioids have skyrocketed in recent years, with more than 5,735 cases in 2016. Deaths caused by one type of opioid, the synthetic painkiller fentanyl, increased by 97 percent that year.
Nationally, the drug claimed more than 59,000 lives in 2016, and President Donald Trump declared a national health emergency.