Gulf County was named as one of nine Florida Counties participating in the first wave of a project launched by the state aimed at fostering a substance abuse and recovery network to combat the opioid epidemic.
On August 3, Governor Ron DeSantis was joined by Florida health officials to announce the expansion of the Coordinated Opioid Recovery program, which is coordinated through the Department of Health, Department of Children and Families and the Agency for Health Care Administration.
Governor DeSantis also announced the appointment of Dr. Courtney Phillips as the first Statewide Director of Opioid Recovery.
“This year we increased the penalties for individuals trafficking drugs in our state, and now we are giving Floridians the tools they need to break the substance abuse cycle,” DeSantis said. “Substance abuse can affect any family at any time, so from education to law enforcement to treatment we are going to make sure that Floridians can take advantage of this new addiction recovery model.”
Gulf County’s drug poisoning deaths occured at a higher rate than state average in 2020, according to data from the Florida Department of Health, though 2020 numbers were much higher than the county average.
The death from drug poisoning rate was 57 per 100,000 residents (or 7 total). The state average was 37.8.
There is not currently an addiction treatment center in Gulf County.
“It is so vital for individuals contending with a substance use disorder to have access to the right array of services that will work for their individual needs,” said Department of Children and Families Secretary Shevaun Harris. “When agencies, stakeholders, and partners alike come together to bolster our state’s system of care, we can ensure that Floridians have access to comprehensive services when they need it most.”
“Substance use disorder is a chronic, life-threatening, and relapsing disease that needs to be treated like all other chronic diseases with medical and subspecialty expertise,” said Florida Department of Health Deputy Secretary for Health Dr. Kenneth Scheppke. “Launching CORE will create a sustained system of care to manage the complex medical needs of these patients and bring lasting recovery and good health.”
As the Statewide Director of Opioid Recovery, Dr. Courtney Phillips will provide support for the behavioral health system. Dr. Phillips will offer clinical consultations for addicts seeking treatment and recovery services. She is an adult psychologist who currently serves as the Director of Behavioral Health for the Health Care District of Palm Beach County.
"The state of Florida should be proud today to take the lead on systematically tackling the opioid and substance use epidemic with compassion and competent care," said Statewide Director of Opioid Recovery Dr. Courtney Phillips. "Our state and communities did not choose this epidemic, but today we choose to treat this medical and psychiatric illness like any other, with access, evidence based care, and lifelong comprehensive treatment."
In 2022, there have already been nearly 2,000 fatal overdoses in Florida. In Brevard County, law enforcement is seizing more illicit drugs than ever before, especially fentanyl. Last year, the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office, with the Central Florida High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Team, saw a 72% increase in drug overdose fatalities related to fentanyl.
This program was successfully piloted in Palm Beach County for nearly two years and will be expanding in up to twelve counties to break the overdose cycle. Floridians battling with addiction can utilize CORE for stabilization and to receive medical assisted treatment that is specialized to sustain a clean pathway to success. CORE will be expanded in two phases. Phase one counties also include Brevard, Clay, Duval, Escambia, Manatee, Marion, Pasco and Volusia counties.
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