drug addiction

Peter Haden / WLRN

Nowhere in South Florida has been hit harder by the opioid overdose epidemic than Palm Beach County.

The number of fatal opioid overdoses has gone up 230 percent in the past two years. More than 540 people died last year. All of those fatalities have to be autopsied by one of the county’s five pathologists.

The federal government is giving the state $3 million for drug court programs in the wake of an opioid epidemic.

Manatee and Sarasota Counties have seen overdose deaths from drugs like heroin, fentanyl and carfentanil spike in the past few years. At the same time, the number of children being removed from their homes and placed into the area’s foster care system has skyrocketed. There’s a connection between the increases.

FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF LAW ENFORCEMENT

At the suggestion of a Palm Beach County Commissioner, the county is looking into suing drug companies whose products are at the heart of the opioid crisis.

The U.S. is in the midst of an opioid crisis. Millions of Americans are addicted to the powerful prescription painkillers, and tens of thousands are dying each year from overdoses.

A new report out Thursday offers a bit of hope: Doctors are prescribing opioids less often, and the average dose they're giving patients has dropped, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency

Accidental opioid overdoses by first responders are an alarming phenomenon.

 

Now 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: Sunny Daze, Inside South Florida's Opioids Crisis]

Dani Moschella is with the Delray Beach Police Department. She said the department tightened their procedures a year ago.

Lake County Sheriff's Office / YouTube

Ty Hernandez was mending a broken heart when he felt a cold coming on.

His mom, Peggy, did the mom thing.

“You’ve got to rest and drink fluids.” she said. “The next morning, I left a note on the counter with some chicken noodle soup and said, ‘I hope you feel better. Call me if you need anything.’ And I went to work.”

Of the three medications that treat opioid addiction, one got more attention in the Florida Legislature this year.

For nearly four years now, an unusual coalition of Republicans and Democrats has worked to reduce mandatory prison terms for many federal drug crimes.

But that bipartisan movement may be shallower than it appears. Indeed, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, who both supported a cut-back on some drug punishments, are preparing a bill that would create tough new penalties for people caught with synthetic opioid drugs. Grassley chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Feinstein is the panel's ranking member.

Peter Haden / WLRN

The overdose call comes in to Delray Beach Fire Rescue around 7:30 p.m. on a Friday.

Firefighter-paramedics — they’re trained to do both — jump into action and rush to a nearby hotel. But before they can treat this victim, another call comes in.

A new report from Florida medical examiners finds fentanyl caused more deaths than any other drug in Florida last year.

Wilson Sayre / WLRN News

Local officials are raising concerns about drug use at hurricane shelters, saying they aren't equipped to care for addicts, unaccompanied minors and others with other medical needs.

 

Nearly 16,000 people in nine counties from Indian River to Miami-Dade evacuated to shelters during Hurricane Matthew. Six evacuees seeking refuge at a Delray Beach high school during Hurricane Matthew overdosed on drugs as the dangerous storm approached South Florida. Bags brought to shelters by evacuees are typically not searched.

More than half of people say they've suffered lower back pain in the past year, according to the latest NPR-Truven Health Analytics Health Poll.

That's not a surprise; low back pain is very common, and one of the biggest reasons that people seek medical care. But people told us that they're making very different choices in how they treat that pain, with some stark differences among age groups and income levels.

Florida service providers are wasting no time taking advantage of nearly $30 million in federal money for addressing the opioid epidemic.

bigjohn36 / Getty Images/iStockphoto

A South Florida drug treatment provider will spend the next 27.5 years behind bars for operating a multimillion-dollar health care fraud and sex trafficking scheme.

U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks handed down the sentence Wednesday at the Federal Courthouse in West Palm Beach. Kenneth “Kenny” Chatman, 47, of Boynton Beach, pleaded guilty in March to the charges.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Marie Villafaña said Chatman was a relatively small provider in the drug treatment industry, but he was, “the most dangerous.”

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