County awarded $300,000 to fight growing opioid abuse

Clay’s overdose rate higher than state averages


CLAY COUNTY – The county’s health department was awarded more than $300,000 to fight against opioid abuse.

The Florida Department of Health in Clay County in a partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced last week it has been awarded $322,000 that will run through August 2020 to fund the department’s work in obtaining comprehensive and timely data on overdose morbidity and mortality. That data will be used to help the county’s prevention and response efforts.

“Clay County has a higher rate of Drug Poisoning deaths and Unintentional Injury deaths by Drug Poisoning for 100,000 people than the State of Florida rate,” DOH-Clay administrator Heather Huffman said. “In 2019 alone, there were 124 non-fatal opioid-involved overdoses and 248 opioid-involved non-fatal overdose emergency department visits. This partnership between CCFR and CBHC is a vital step toward decreasing the rates of fatal and non-fatal opioid overdoses.”

Community health services liaison Lisa Rogers said Clay County’s 2018 rate of 22.5 deaths for every 100,000 residents is higher than the 2018 state average rate of 18.7. It’s also higher than every surrounding county. Alachua County’s was 8.7, Baker’s was 0, Bradford’s was 4.5, Nassau’s was 16.7 and St. Johns’ was 6.3.

The money will help it determine why Clay County’s rate is so high and how best to fight to bring it down. This grant is an Overdose Data Action grant from the CDC and was awarded to Clay as “general prevention and community paramedicine.” What this translates to is the creation of a task force whose sole purpose is to tackle Clay’s opioid challenge.

“The monies received will be used to develop a task force that will work on ensuring that medical providers are on the same page when prescribing opioids, identifying those who want to help before experiencing an overdose, and ensuring that those with opioid use disorder have access to family planning services,” DOH-Clay director of community health services Patricia Cepeda said.

“The Paramedicine Program creates a partnership between local hospitals, behavioral health services and emergency management services so that residents who experience an overdose in the community can be supported while receiving medication-assisted therapy and getting connected to long term substance abuse outpatient services. Through this funding we hope to empower our residents to make healthier lifestyle choices while reducing the occurrences of opioid-related overdoses and deaths in Clay County.”

The task force will be gathering data, analyzing local cases, using billboards and radios to advertise prevention awareness, and lead opioid prevention meetings alongside over a dozen other community agencies. They’ll also spotlight medication-assisted training to those with opioid abuse problems as MAT is an evidence-based therapy that combines the “use of medication with counseling and behavioral therapies to provide a holistic approach to treating substance use disorders,” according to Rogers.

Treatment will come from Clay County Behavioral Health Care and while residents will mostly be identified for possible treatment through 911 calls, Rogers said individuals seeking out MAT can reach out to their health care provider or insurer. As the grant runs through August 2022, it might be a while before the effects of the $322,000 are felt but the health department hopes to see its high opioid-related death rate significantly lower by then.


No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment