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ONLY ON CBS12: New numbers show decline of opioid deaths in Palm Beach County

Opioid deaths in Palm Beach County, 2017-2021. (Palm Beach County)
Opioid deaths in Palm Beach County, 2017-2021. (Palm Beach County)
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Numbers obtained exclusively by CBS12 News show Palm Beach County opioid deaths in 2021 are on track to be the lowest in years.

“What is Narcan?" It's usually the first question Sheila-Joe Gaines hears. "A lot of people don’t know what it is."

Joe-Gaines, a representative for Trinity Counseling Centers of Florida, says the nonprofit is changing that through community events, including the one they held on Saturday.

“We were not only able to feed 200 people, but we were also able to distribute over 500 cans of Narcan to the community," she told CBS12 News.

According to Joe-Gaines Trinity Counseling Centers of Florida's approach is different. She says they work with law enforcement, and community partners to identify hot spots for overdoses and they target those areas. They offer free food to the community at the events and use the opportunity to educate them about the life-saving overdose drug and how to use it.

We want to see a reduction in overdose deaths. I don’t know that we can particularly point to a single intervention," said Palm Beach County Drug Czar John Hulick. "We can really point to a variety of initiatives.

Hulick says the grassroots efforts are part of the puzzle.

Since the county brought Hulick on in 2018, he's worked to fight the crisis by spearheading the creation of a recovery community center in Delray Beach. He says the county has also worked closely with the Sober Homes task force, headed by Palm Beach County state attorney Dave Aronberg.

"Our aim is really is to increase our long-term recovery outcomes," Hulick told CBS12 News. "We reduce the number of people that cycle back, or lapse into more intense levels of care.”

It seems to be working.

Numbers obtained by CBS12 News show through Oct. 2021, the county is reporting 343 deaths.

That's a huge decline from 2020 when the county reported 566 deaths, a spike from 2019 when the county reported 447 deaths.

See also: Facial coverings will no longer be required in government buildings in Palm Beach County

Trinity Counseling Centers of Florida plan to host more Narcan giveaway in hotspots, including Riviera Beach, Lake Worth, Delray Beach and the Glades, before the end of the year.

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