The Florida Department of Health (DOH) has announced an initiative to ensure readily available access to naloxone, a lifesaving medication that could reduce thousands of substance abuse deaths across the state, through its county health departments.
Naloxone is a medication that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose, restoring breathing and consciousness within minutes of being administered to an individual who has overdosed.
In a press release, DOH stated that increasing access to naloxone is a key component in battling the opioid epidemic, especially in rural areas or counties with limited access to health care. Providing naloxone through county health departments will increase support to people across the state who are dealing with substance use disorder, and it will help prevent overdose deaths in Florida.
Dr. Kenneth A. Scheppke, Deputy Secretary for Health, stated, “Addressing the opioid epidemic is a top priority for the state. In 2021, almost 8,000 people in Florida lost their lives to drug overdoses, the highest one-year total ever recorded in our state.”
This expansion is a result of collaboration with the Florida Department of Children and Families through the Overdose Prevention Program, or iSaveFL, which facilitates the distribution of naloxone kits to families, friends, and caregivers of those who are at risk for an opioid overdose. These naloxone kits consist of two naloxone nasal sprays that can be administered even without a health care professional present.
This effort complements the Florida Department of Health’s HEROS (Helping Emergency Responders Obtain Support) program that provides free naloxone to emergency response agencies.
“The iSaveFL website provides information on finding naloxone in your community as well as resources on treatment, overdose education and prevention. A big part of this initiative will be educating the community and working with partners to address the opioid epidemic,” said Dr. Ulyee Choe, County Health Systems Statewide Medical Director.
A total of 16 county health departments (Baker, Bradford, Union, Franklin, Gulf, Gadsden, Gilcrest, Levy, Glades, Hendry, Hamilton, Hardee Jefferson, Madison, Lafayette, and Suwanee) received 1,500 naloxone kits during the initial phase of this initiative. The next phase of this initiative will expand naloxone distribution to all 67 county health departments in Florida.
This initiative is part of the state’s response to the overdose crisis. This month, Governor Ron DeSantis launched the Coordinated Opioid Recovery (CORE) program – the first of its kind in the nation – to provide comprehensive and sustainable care to those affected by substance use disorder.
DOH issued a public health and safety alert on July 8, 2022, to help ensure that Floridians remain vigilant of the signs of overdose. The department also offers print and digital educational materials that can help Floridians identify signs of an overdose and how to respond.
For anyone with questions on potential overdoses, other drug-related exposures, or poisoning, call 1-800-222-1222 or visit the Florida’s Poison Control Centers website.
For more information about DOH, visit the Florida Department of Health’s website.