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JFRD: Jacksonville overdose calls increased 20% in March

Some city officials are concerned it’s connected to COVID-19.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As COVID-19 cases continued to rise and the state and city began putting restrictions in place, the number of overdose calls went up.

Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Cheif Keith Powers said Monday the agency saw a 20% increase in overdose calls from February to March.

Some city officials are concerned it’s connected to COVID-19.

“So our concern is, and what we relate to the mayor, is that people you know their doctor’s offices are closed, and pain management clinics are closed and then they’re turning to street drugs to supplement their pain medications. And so I’m just asking people to please you know, please don’t do that," Powers said.

There were 436 overdose calls in March, a scary spike that could mean people are coping with COVID-19 in a deadly way.

The new data from JFRD shows every week in March 2020 there was an increase in overdose calls when compared to 2019.

Of those calls, some have died and there’s been an increase in the number of people who have died, with drugs known to kill people during the Opioid Epidemic in their system: Fentanyl and Norfentanyl. These two drugs are typically laced with other drugs.

News4Jax spoke with Chief Medical Examiner for District 4, Doctor Pietak, about the overdose calls and deaths. He and his staff examine the bodies from overdose deaths.

“I was kind of surprised with these results because if we look at fentanyl alone which is one of our opioid drugs that are popping up on deceased persons,” Pietak said.

Since the increase in overdose calls, JFRD has distributed over 900 nasal Narcan kits. Narcan can temporarily reverse an overdose to give the patient more time to get the patient to the hospital.

Dr. Pietak said it’s too soon to know if the overdose increase is happening due to the restrictions put in place by local and state governments, the closing of some doctor’s offices or something else.

Because of the initial spike that happened in March we will have to look a few months down the road to see if that were just a small spike or if this will continue.

And as Pietak and other health officials continue to monitor the coming months April is also showing an increase in overdose calls.

The city said Monday that if someone is having a hard time getting their medications, call a doctor and do not turn to street drugs.


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