ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – The sheriff of St. Johns County released the sheriff's office annual report Sunday, emphasizing its efforts on mental health training, autism awareness and battling the opioid crisis.
Sheriff David Shoar said in 2017, the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office began to see the local impacts of the opioid epidemic, and is taking steps to address it. All deputies now carry Narcan - a narcotic blocker - as well as a defibrillator.
The sheriff said based on figures, opioid victims have an 80 percent survival rate due to the training and equipment.
There was also more attention given to responses of deputies to those with autism in the past year, at the sheriff's office has been conducting training to raise autism awareness. Deputies are taking opportunities to speak to people with autism, their caregivers and service providers.
In 2017, 40 hour classes were given over the course of a week to cover a variety of mental health topics. The training is designed to develop a greater understanding and sense of empathy for those with mental illness.
The sheriff said as a result of the courses, there have been fewer Baker Acts for people with autism and an increase in referrals to service providers. He noted a 22 percent decrease from 2016 to 2017.
New initiatives were also added to the Special Victims Unit (SVU). It launched the InVEST team, which identifies high-risk domestic violence cases and offers services to victims and families. InVEST, which is led by detectives, meets several times weekly and reviews all domestic violence related offenses reported in St. Johns County.
In addition, the SVU launched an initiative to manage the county's growing sexual offender and predator population. Sexual Predator Offender Tracking (SPOT) detectives make sure offenders maintain compliance with statutory requirements, and conduct undercover surveillance. In 2017, SPOT conducted 62 investigations which resulted in 58 arrests.