DEFUNIAK SPRINGS — Eleven people die every day in the state of Florida from opioids. While the average is alarming, it’s a problem that isn’t just a risk for one demographic.
“We all know someone or have a loved one who is affected by addiction,” said Walton County Sheriff Michael Adkinson. “No one is immune.”
It’s a sight deputies in Walton County have witnessed numerous times: a drug overdose involving someone’s mother, father, son or daughter. Then, the notification to family and friends is not far behind.
“It happens all too often,” Adkinson said. “It’s one of the toughest things we do.”
In May, Gov. Rick Scott declared a statewide public health emergency for the opioid epidemic, which allowed Florida to immediately draw down more than $27 million in federal grant funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Specifically, the federal funds will allow treatment and referral by courts to be evaluated for treatment of a substance abuse disorder. Treatments include VIVITROL, a non-narcotic medication approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to be used as a treatment alternative, along with counseling, for alcohol and opioid addiction. This medication is the only extended-release medication approved by the FDA for this purpose.
Although the medication has been available since 2014, it has been cost prohibitive due to the lack of third party insurance or Medicaid coverage. VIVITROL is a non-addictive antagonist, used to block opioid receptors so they cannot be activated. It diminishes the cravings yet does not give a high. The medication is administered monthly.
Now, the Walton County Sheriff’s Office is partnering with Chautauqua Healthcare Services to identify inmates at the Walton County Jail who could benefit from the treatment before their release. Upon their return to the community, Chautauqua Healthcare Services will provide intensive outpatient treatment, case management, and employment and housing assistance in addition to their monthly injections.
“On a regular basis we have family members and friends come to us desperate to help someone they care about,” said Rachel Gillis of Chautauqua Healthcare Services. “Until now we have had little to offer beyond residential services they cannot afford and our outpatient services.
“I believe VIVITROL will give us the ability, for the first time, to help more than we have ever been able to in the past."
On Wednesday, Chautauqua Healthcare Services and Walton County Sheriff’s Office will have a short ceremony and an official announcement discussing the VIVITROL partnership at 11 a.m. at Bogey’s Restaurant, 660 Baldwin Ave. in DeFuniak Springs.