Drug Free Collier and its partners recently hosted a community forum to address the growing heroin and opiate epidemic that is making headlines. With hundreds of local residents in attendance, it’s clear that Collier County is seeing the impact of this national epidemic.
“The number one cause of death nationwide is no longer car crashes, it’s overdoses,” said Dr. Andrew Kolodny, featured speaker and Chief Medical Officer with Phoenix House Foundation and Co-Founder of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing.
As one of the nation’s leading experts on the prescription opioid and heroin crisis, Kolodny addressed a group of more than 70 local physicians and 115 community members during his June visit to Naples. Kolodny talked about the scope of the crisis, its historical context, contributing factors and also provided a framework for developing interventions to address the epidemic within our communities.
“We are in the midst of the worst drug epidemic in the history of the United States,” he said.
Overprescribing pain medications is at the root of the problem. As prescriptions and sales of opioids increase, so do deaths, Kolodny said. Nationally, overdose deaths reached 47,055 in 2014. Locally, there were 45 opioid and heroinrelated deaths reported by the Collier County Medical Examiner’s Office from January to June of 2015.
As a coalition of concerned citizens, Drug Free Collier is working hard to change the landscape for our youth and prevent the epidemic of addiction through increased awareness, said Rey Pezeshkan, President of Drug Free Collier’s Board of Directors.
The community is on the front lines of this epidemic and we’re here to help find solutions,” he said.
“Communities have been hard hit,” said Marty Harding, Moderator with the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. The forum also included a panel discussion with representatives from the Collier County Sheriff’s Office, Naples Community Healthcare System’s Emergency Department and Collier County Emergency Medical Services.
Each participant received a free copy of Hazelden’s “Heroin & Prescription Painkillers: A Toolkit for Community Action.”
Solutions offered include support for families who have lost someone, medication assisted therapies, making Nalaxone – an antidote for opiate overdoses – available and supporting coalitions like Drug Free Collier.
All participants left with a packet of information which included local resources for treatment and locations for family support.
Drug Free Collier also continues to work to reduce access to prescription and over-thecounter medications. Through Operation Medicine Cabinet®, we are working to keep harmful drugs from falling into the wrong hands by providing a responsible alternative for the disposal of household medication. Residents can dispose of medications yearround at one of 11 sites located throughout Collier County. For directions to the nearest drop box, visit www.DrugFreeCollier.org
Attendees also received pouches of Deterra, our newest weapon in our fight to reduce access to potentially harmful drugs. Each pouch can be used at home to neutralize medications by simply adding water; the package can then be thrown into the trash,
without causing harm to the environment. For information on Deterra or other local drug prevention initiatives contact Carly Gibb at 239.302.6717.
This community event was made possible through the generous support from: Advance Medical; Central Florida Behavioral Health Network; David Lawrence Center; Florida Department of Children and Families; Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation; Kaléo; Park Royal Behavioral Health Services; and The Willough at Naples. Continuing Education Units at the public event were provided by Hazelden Publishing. Continuing Medical Education units for physicians were provided by NCH Healthcare System.
About us – Drug Free Collier was established in 2005 as a coalition of parents, youth, teachers, religious and fraternal organizations, health care and business professionals, law enforcement and media. Its mission is to unite the community to protect the children of Collier County from substance abuse. For more information, visit our website: www.DrugFreeCollier.org.