“We take the Opioid Crisis seriously. We understand that families have suffered because of this. And we have to get it right.” – Mayor Lenny Curry, Jacksonville, FL
Last year Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry described the crisis as a “tragic epidemic” as he and other city leaders met at City Hall with the goal to talk awareness, prevention, and solutions.
Scope of Crisis in Northeast Florida
Startling facts shared at the meeting included; 911 calls for ODs to the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department (JFRD) have tripled, with a call every two hours now. Narcan administrations (a medication used to block the effects of opioids, especially in overdose) are up 500 percent. JFRD responded to over 3,411 calls in 2016, and the cost of transporting OD victims reached close to $4.5M last year.
Overdoses, at last count, end four times as many lives as homicides in Duval County (Jacksonville), with 2016’s count of 464 casualties more than doubling 2015’s count of 201. Caucasians represent 86 percent of the deaths, and over half of those passing away are in their 30s and 40s.
How Should the Opioid Crisis be Addressed?
The opioid epidemic continues to affect thousands in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, deaths from prescription opioid medications — drugs such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and morphine — have more than quadrupled since 1999. Deaths from illicit drugs, such as heroin, also continue to be a major issue. Dr. Michael Hooten, a Mayo Clinic anesthesiologist, has a brief description of what the opioid epidemic entails.
Mayo Clinic recommends that the crisis has to be addressed on a number of levels:
- In an acute setting, we have the responsibility to treat pain appropriately. For a patient undergoing surgery or who suffers significant trauma, opioids may be indicated initially.
- We need to be vigilant for side effects, such as respiratory depression, sedation, nausea, constipation and pruritus. At the same time, we need to consider nonopioid medications as adjuncts to treat pain via a different modality.
- We have to provide patients with appropriate expectations regarding the time frame with which opioids will be prescribed in every setting, as best we can.
- We need to educate patients that opioid discontinuation may be necessary prior to complete resolution of pain and encourage nonopioid analgesics — such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen — to treat pain, if appropriate.
- We need improved communication with our patients regarding the pain experience and focus on return to functioning, despite unresolved pain.
- We must communicate that nonpharmacological treatments for pain, such as ice, heat, diaphragmatic breathing or meditation, can be effective and part of a thoughtful pain management plan.
JAX Chamber Health Council Focusing on Crisis
The Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce Health Council helps its members connect, grow and prosper within Jacksonville’s business community by providing unique programs and activities focused on today’s important trends in health and well-being.
JAX Chamber’s premier Council for Health and Wellness membership consists of healthcare professionals, small business owners and vendors, who meet for lunch and networking on the first Thursday of every month. After serving as an active council member, I’m proud to be nominated recently for the Board of the Health Council, and if selected, I look forward to continuing to play a leadership role in helping address the community health needs of Northeast Florida.
Health Council Event – August 2, 2018
I’m even more proud of JAX Health Council’s 8/2 event; a luncheon and keynote speaker; Florida Congressman John Rutherford. The event topic: The Local and National Impact of the Opioid Epidemic, and the work being done in the House of Representatives to combat the crisis. John Rutherford (FL-04) is serving his first term in the U.S. House of Representatives. He sits on the House Judiciary Committee, and the House Appropriations Committee.
Solutions Proposed or Underway
The Congressman highlighted these collaborative actions to address this crisis:
- $3.5 billion dollar investment by the National Institute of Health to increase research to address the challenge
- Increased access to medicare and medicaid
- Since 85 percent of crime is drug related, propose expanding capacity and services with a Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office (JSO) Matrix House facility, incorporating a full therapeutic community model approach, to lower crime and recidivism rates
- Build on success, enhancing coordination of existing services to replicate positive results from the partnership with River Region Human Services. The organization effectively manages in-jail substance abuse programs known as the Matrix House Program, providing integrated health services to help rebuild lives in Jacksonville.
CDC National Response
For additional information on the national response to the crisis, The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has a five-point strategy to prevent opioid overdoses and harms:
To learn more, check out the CDC’s Confronting Opioids site. It will raise your awareness and offer resource information to support prevention.