First Lady Casey DeSantis Announces Statewide Public Health Advisory After Agency News Conference and Roundtable in Gadsden County

QUINCY, FL – Today, First Lady Casey DeSantis was joined by Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo, Department of Children and Families (DCF) Secretary Shevaun Harris, Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) Acting Commissioner Mark Glass and Gadsden County Sheriff Maurice Young , to discuss the recent increase in fentanyl-related overdoses.

As a result of today’s discussion, the First Lady, through the Department of Health in coordination with other state agencies, will release a statewide public announcement to inform the public of the dangers of fentanyl, now the leading cause of death in the United States for persons 18 to 45. The Council will focus on prevention and recovery resources for overdoses involving synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl. In addition, state agencies will work together to share available state resources on substance abuse and mental well-being to help meet the needs of Florida communities, including Gadsden County.

“Too many people are losing their lives to illicit drugs and substance abuse,” said First Lady Casey DeSantis. “Fentanyl overdose is the nation’s leading cause of death for people ages 18 to 45. It is mostly produced in China and poured across our southern border. It is imperative that Floridians know the risks and understand that as little as two milligrams can be fatal. Stopping drug dealers and helping Floridians overcome the challenges of addiction and prevent overdose deaths is an important priority for all of us.”

“I would like to thank the governor and first lady for their support regarding the public health and safety crisis Gadsden County is experiencing,” said Gadsden County Sheriff Morris Young. “It was amazing to see how quickly the governor sent some of the top officials to help Gadsden County, like the surgeon general, the FDLE commissioner and the DCF secretary.”

“More than 6,150 people died from overdoses involving fentanyl and fentanyl analogs in 2020. While substance use disorder is a chronic illness that requires clinical oversight, the fentanyl crisis requires all of us in communities to be involved – and that’s exactly what we’re doing,” he said Chief Surgeon Dr. Joseph Ladapo.

“Our department is constantly working to reduce deaths related to opioid and stimulant abuse and to increase the number of people who have access to the treatment they need,” said DCF Secretary Shevaun Harris. “Through intentional collaboration with our state and community partners, we are working to bring more resources and support to all communities in need.”

“The safety of Florida’s citizens and visitors is paramount to FDLE, and illegal, deadly drugs like fentanyl have no place in safe communities,” said Acting FDLE Commissioner Mark Glass. “When the FDLE conducts drug investigations, our goal is always to bring down the entire organization. We thank Governor DeSantis for his leadership and for signing HB 95, which keeps drug dealers in prison longer and ends their drug dealing days.

To aid recovery, DCF will deploy more than 200 Narcan overdose treatment kits and Peer Support Coordinators throughout the county. Emergency responders can also get free Narcan through the Helping Emergency Responders Obtain Support (HEROS) program through the DOH. Under the direction of the FDLE, the task force will continue to target fentanyl recovery in Northwest Florida. In the first 3 days of the operation, the task force recovered almost four grams of fentanyl, enough to kill nearly 2,000 Florida residents.

The state will also ensure that those found to have trafficked fentanyl will be apprehended to the full extent of the law. Governor Ron DeSantis recently signed HB 95 into law increasing penalties for those who sell and distribute opioids. The mandatory minimum sentence for fentanyl trafficking has been increased from 3 years to 7 years for 4-14 grams and from 15 to 20 years for 14-28 grams. Earlier this year, SB 544 was signed into law allowing Floridians to go directly to pharmacists to get Narcan, which can be administered in emergencies. Previously, people had to go through law enforcement to get Narcan to treat those who had overdosed.

A fentanyl overdose is much faster and more severe than an overdose with other opioids. Fatal fentanyl overdoses have nearly doubled since 2018, due to illegal drugs, including marijuana and heroin, containing fentanyl without the user’s knowledge. Florida residents struggling with substance use disorders can visit www.isavefl.com to get help.

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