St. Johns County initiative works to fight opioid epidemic

The Opioid Treatment Team helps provide resources for those looking to recover

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – In St. Johns County, a community initiative is working to fight the opioid epidemic.

According to Epic Behavioral Healthcare in St. Augustine, there were 5,725 opioid related deaths reported in Florida in 2016. There were also 4,215 babies born in the state addicted to drugs, 72 of those were born in St. Johns County.

Earlier this year, Epic Behavioral Healthcare created the Opioid Treatment Team to help provide greater access to treatment for those who want to recover from addiction.

The team works with several community groups, including Flagler Hospital.

“Basically whatever I can do to help them stay sober is my job,” said Clarence Kelley, Jr., Opioid Treatment Team Care Coordinator.

Kelley goes to Flagler Hospital on a daily basis to meet with patients in the hospital for opioid-related issues. He explains counseling and the treatment available if patients voluntarily choose to recover. The team also helps form recovery plans and in some cases, advises an opioid blocker called Vivitrol to reduce cravings.

“The first month alone, it cuts down the cravings 55-percent so it’s been very successful for us,” explained Dr. Melanie Smith, Clinical Director.

Smith said the number of people using opioids is going up. The Opioid Treatment Team said it is a community effort to fight the epidemic.

“We just can’t give up, we can’t stop, drugs aren’t going away, problems aren’t going away and so we have to continue to support each other,” said Criston Dinger, Opioid Treatment Team Clinician.

For more information about the resources available and the Opioid Treatment Team, visit

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