New pilot program created to help combat opioid epidemic

JFRD says its averaging 350 overdose calls per month

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – City Council approved $1.4 million to fight the opioid epidemic Thursday at a meeting at the Jacksonville City Council. The pilot program, which will work through St. Vincent’s Healthcare, puts Jacksonville on the leading edge of fighting the opioid epidemic. 

Medical Director at Gateway Community Services Dr. Raymond Pomm will oversee the program. He hopes it will touch more than 300 people over the six-month program.

Pomm emphasized more numbers, saying 70,000 opioid deaths predicted this year nationwide.

“From what I can tell we are the only program offering a comprehensive support intervention treatment service from beginning all the way through to end,” Pomm said.

As the program gets ready to launch former council president Bill Gulliford held a meeting he called a “community conversation.”

Gulliford said the opioid crisis is so compelling because it’s killing so many from what he considers all walks of life.

“I had a first responder tell me that he's been everywhere from oceanfront houses to shacks and everywhere in between,” Gulliford said. “So how you categorize that? So, see, it’s not the traditional down the back alley timer or under the bridge kind of drug abuse issue.”

The first responders who were part of the meeting presented some staggering numbers about overdoses, saying they’ve increased by 105 percent since January.

The Jacksonville Fire Rescue Department said it is now averaging 350 overdose calls per month.

Dr. Pomm said they anticipate 50 percent of the patients treated in emergency departments refusing to participate in the program, but hope they can be persuaded to enter treatment.

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