Doctors hope to reduce Jacksonville deaths related to opioids, guns

Meeting held Tuesday to discuss preventable death

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Duval County Medical Society Foundation met Tuesday to discuss ways of reducing the number of deaths related to the opioid epidemic and gun violence in Jacksonville.

Leon Smith is a dentist who is trying to change the trend. His son Andrew died from an opioid overdose.

"He was bright, he was articulate," Smith said. "Andrew ordered his fatal dose of heroin like he was ordering a pizza. Less than 30 minutes later he was dead."

Smith hopes the medical industry considers offering more therapy for drug users and their families, and more data about drug user trends. His request comes as Florida Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto changed the law to reduce the amount of opioid pills a patient can get for minor pain.

"The majority of the pills that were getting in people's hands on the street were coming from unused prescriptions," Benacquisto said.

Doctors at the meeting agreed programs are helping, but believe more help is needed. They also see a health care issue with gun violence.

As Florida highlights the lowest overall crime rate in 47 years, Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams says the city has its challenges with gun violence.

"This is a community-wide issue, so its got to be a community-wide effort to fix it," Williams said. "We want the community to work -- partner with us. Obviously we need the community's help to solve these cases.

Whether it's drug use or gun violence, doctors see some of the worst of their effects. The DCMS Foundation will vote in the coming weeks on whether it wants to focus on the opioid epidemic or gun violence to form a new coalition.

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