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‘Sadly second nature’: JFRD crews respond to over 5,000 overdose calls in 2020

JFRD says it handled more overdose calls last year than ever before

Local brothers work to lower the number of people who overdose from opioids by creating an intervention group.
Local brothers work to lower the number of people who overdose from opioids by creating an intervention group.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Overdoses in Jacksonville are increasing at an alarming rate, and the pandemic only made the situation worse.

The Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department said 2020 was the highest year it’s seen for overdose calls: the department responded to 5,050 overdose calls. Another 2,800 calls were reported as opioid-related.

In 2019, the department reported 4,140 overdose calls, and in 2018, it was just 2,417 overdose calls.

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JFRD spokesman Capt. Eric Prosswimmer said they have seen it all.

“We’ve had crews respond to the same person three times in an hour and a half,” he said.

The Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department said 2020 was the highest year it’s seen for overdose calls. (WJXT)

Prosswimmer said it doesn’t matter the neighborhood, social class, age or gender.

He said when he first began his firefighting career, overdose calls were unusual.

“In the past five years, it has become sadly second nature,” he said.

Prosswimmer explained that it’s not only those using drugs for a high who prompt overdose calls. It could be a senior who took the wrong medication or who accidentally doubled up. It also could be a child who got into a medicine cabinet.

“Every fireman is a minimum EMT,” said Prosswimmer. “We have a much higher percentage of paramedics now. It’s not specific training for overdose. It’s just part of our general training. We train in medical urgencies.”

First responders see overdose calls come in as a breathing problem or someone unconscious, but once on the scene, if it’s an opioid overdose their respiratory system can shut show quickly and that’s when they have to act fast.

News4Jax went on a ride-along with JFRD to an overdose call. Luckily, the man who overdosed is alive and was taken to the hospital to be checked out.


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