Opioid Crisis

Palm Beach County is the epicenter of a South Florida overdose epidemic.

Officials estimate 900 people died of opioid overdoses in 2016 – more than twice as many as the year before.

Super-potent synthetic opioids like fentanyl and carfentanil – up to a 100 times stronger that heroine - are flooding the streets.

The sheer number of overdoses is overwhelming police, firefighters, hospitals and morgues.

Compounding the problem, recovering drug users are flocking to South Florida from hundreds of miles away – drawn by a world-renowned drug treatment industry. Some land in good centers and find a path to recovery. Others fall victim to corrupt operators and wind up homeless, pimped out...or dead.




Explore the series



Credit Peter Haden / WLRN

Treatment Center CEO Offers Potential Solutions To Drug Rehab Fraud

"If you built cars and 90 percent of them broke down, you would go out of business. In the treatment industry, you get reimbursed for providing services — but facilities don't take responsibility for the outcome the second the client leaves the door," says Andrew Burki is CEO of Life of Purpose, an addiction treatment center on the Florida Atlantic University Campus in Boca Raton. [Read more]


Credit Peter Haden / WLRN

In South Florida’s Addiction Treatment Industry, Recovering Drug Users Can Be Bought And Sold

Some sober home operators are dedicated to helping residents succeed in recovery. But others see addicts as a payday. A corrupt drug treatment center might pay $500 a week in kickbacks to sober home operators who steer them clients with health insurance — somebody like Dillon Katz ... [Read more]


Credit Peter Haden / WLRN

Opioid Crisis: Lawmakers Look For Solutions In Palm Beach County

State legislators came to Palm Beach County Tuesday to discuss the opioid crisis.

County officials, first responders, treatment professionals and advocates offered up stories from the front lines and ideas for reducing overdoses and deaths... [Read More]


Credit U.S. Department of Justice

Feds Shut Down Website Used By Floridians To Buy And Sell Heroin, Fentanyl

An internet black market used by some Floridians to buy and sell heroin and fentanyl has been shut down in an international law enforcement operation ... [Read More]


Credit Peter Haden / WLRN

'Overdose After Overdose After Overdose:' Opioid Deaths Strain Palm Beach County Medical Examiner

Palm Beach County Medical Examiner Dr. Michael Bell says fatal opioid overdoses have overwhelmed his office. "It's just work, work, work. There's no time to reflect upon the cases." [Read More]


Credit Peter Haden / WLRN

Florida Governor Scott Signs Tough Fentanyl Law In West Palm Beach

Beginning Oct. 1, judges will be bound to give mandatory minimum sentences to people caught with fentanyl and carfentanil. Those with four grams will receive a minimum of three years in prison, 14 grams will draw 15 years, and 28 grams -- 25 years. [Read More]


Credit U.S. DRUG ENFORCEMENT AGENCY

Feds Warn First Responders Of Accidental Overdose When Handling Opioids

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency is warning police and firefighters to take special precautions in case they encounter synthetic opioids like fentanyl. The drugs can cause overdose just from contact with skin ... [Read More]


Credit Lake County Sheriff's Office / YouTube

New Strategy To Fight Opioids Epidemic: Criminal Charges For Drug Dealers In Deaths By Overdose

It’s over 50 times more potent than morphine. The deadly nature of the drug prompted state lawmakers to take action this year. Now Florida law allows people who distribute a fatal dose of fentanyl to be charged with ‘drug-induced homicide.’ [Read More]


Credit Peter Haden / WLRN

 

South Florida Cities To America:  ‘Don’t Send Your Drug Users Here’

Delray Beach is at the epicenter of a South Florida overdose epidemic that claimed more than 1,000 lives last year. And many of those victims were from out of state.

“We're now having tourists come in for treatment,” said Lake Worth City Manager, Michael Bornstein. “These young folks in their 20s from New Jersey, New York, Michigan — wherever the heck they're coming from — and their families send them here.” [Read More] 


  

  Deadly Drug "Grey Death" Hits Florida

Law enforcement officials are warning of a deadly new drug hitting  that's actually  a mixture of several opioid drugs, including heroin, fentanyl and elephant tranquilizer ... [Read More]


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Florida Governor Declares Public Health Emergency For Opioids  

Governor Rick Scott has declared a Public Health Emergency and directed the state government to act to curb Florida's opioid epidemic ...   [Read More]


Credit Ryan Kelly/flickr

  

Why Hasn't Florida Declared A Public Health Emergency For Opioids?

Calls are mounting for Gov. Rick Scott to declare of public health emergency in the wake of an estimated 4,000 deaths in Florida last year due to heroin and opioid overdoses ... [Read More]


Credit Peter Haden / WLRN

  

FAU Partners With DEA To Raise Awareness About South Florida's Opioid Crisis

The growing threat of the opioids epidemic is mobilizing law enforcement and community leaders to form new partnerships and collaborate in events such as ... [Read More]

 


Credit Delray Beach Police Department

  

  

'Dime A Dozen,' Overdose Crisis Rages in South Florida

The man had just risen from the dead.

He’s in his mid-20’s. Sitting on a couch in a house in Delray Beach. Pale as a ghost, sweaty, wide-eyed, disoriented.  Like he just woke up from a nightmare ... [Read more]


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Chinese Fentanyl Fueling U.S., Florida Overdose Crisis

China is the source of deadly fentanyl that’s fueling an opioid overdose epidemic in South Florida and elsewhere in the United States ... [Read more]


Credit Bernard Spragg. NZ / via Flickr/Creative Commons

  

  

'Is This A Sober Home Or A Drug Den?,' Compliance Group Denounces Abuses In Recovery Residences 

As the addiction recovery industry boomed in South Florida over the past decade, so did the number of recovery residences - also known as sober homes ... [Read more]


Credit Peter Haden / WLRN

  

  

Task Force Wants State To Oversee Sober Homes

The Palm Beach County Sober Homes Task Force is putting the finishing touches on a report headed to lawmakers in Tallahassee. It outlines strategies to better regulate drug treatment providers and sober homes ... [Read more]


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Sober Home Detective: 'The Problem Is Humongous'

Delray Beach Police Detective Nicole Lucas weighs in on irregularities in sober homes and treatment centers: "The problem is humongous, probably as big as the pain clinics and the pill mills ... " [Read more]


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Opioid Overdose Continue To Rage In Delray Beach 

The epidemic of opioid overdoses continues to grip Delray Beach. The city saw 75 heroin overdoses last month, with 4 of them fatal. That’s a slight decrease from October, which brought an all-time high of 88 heroin overdoses ... [Read more] 


  

  

Sober Homes Task Force Looks For Renewed Funding

The man leading the fight against unscrupulous sober homes has a message for state legislators: "When the appropiations process comes up, please keep us in mind," said Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg ... [Read more] 


Credit PALM BEACH COUNTY JAIL

  

  

Palm Beach County Sober Home Operators Charged In Kickback Scheme

Iskander joins sober home operators John Dudek, Howard Fowler, Jr. and brothers Patrick and Brian Norquist. The five men have all been arrested in Palm Beach County over the past week on charges of patient brokering ... [Read more] 


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Feds Give Cities Guidance On Sober Homes

The federal government is giving cities some new guidance on how far they can go in regulating sober homes. 

Under the new guidelines, cities have more legal authority to grant or deny the exemptions that allow a sober home to move in ... [Read more] 


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Task Force Looking Into Further Regulations For Florida 'Sober Homes'

“Make no mistake about it: two sets of eyes – so we have both government and the private sector looking at these residences to make sure they’re squeaky clean,” said Assistant State Attorney Al Johnson about a new task force created to crack down on  unscrupulous addiction recovery residences ... [Read more]