As opioid drug overdose deaths increase exponentially, the Health Care District of Palm Beach County — the taxpayer-supported safety net for medical services here — plans to partner up with first responders to help drug abusers in crisis.
It’s a big first step for the district that already runs the Trauma Hawk air ambulance, Lakeside Medical Center in Belle Glade and primary care clinics and school nurses, among other services.
The opioid epidemic has been fueled by prescription pill abuse and the mixing of powerful synthetic opioids like fentanyl with heroin by traffickers and dealers to increase potency and profit.
The district this week applied for a $10 million state grant over five years from the Department of Children & Families that would allow it initially to provide services to addicts at their most vulnerable: right when they overdose and are taken to hospital emergency rooms.
The district will partner up with Southeast Florida Behavioral Health Network, the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office, Palm Beach Fire-Rescue, as well as hospital emergency rooms.
The first stage of the plan is to get addicts in crisis who have been stabilized to an open bed at a local detox or drug recovery center.
The Health Care District is also not just focusing on poor and homeless drug abusers, aiming to help any community drug users who needs to navigate the drug rehabilitation and insurance industries to get treatment, as well as providing those without means an avenue for recovery.
But the district’s CEO Darcy Davis says the second phase of the plan will establish a “centralized receiving facility” that would not only provide treatment for addicts but also mental health services.
“We recognize the opioid crisis is significant and we need to act as quickly as possible to respond,” she said. “And you have to start somewhere. It’s a huge problem. We feel like we need to get involved.”
Read more about the Health Care District’s plans to expand into addiction services this weekend in the Palm Beach Post.
And read our coverage of the heroin epidemic by clicking here.