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Okaloosa County ramps up efforts to combat the opioid crisis with new initiatives

Shalimar, Florida – Okaloosa County, in a significant step toward addressing the opioid crisis, is gearing up for an impactful Revive Awareness Day. In collaboration with the Florida Department of Health in Okaloosa County, a press conference is scheduled for Thursday, June 6, at 9:30 a.m. at the Board Chambers at the Okaloosa County Administration Building on 1250 N. Eglin Parkway, Shalimar, FL 32579 . This event will highlight the county’s ongoing efforts and introduce new initiatives aimed at curbing the opioid epidemic.

Unified Response to Opioid Addiction

During the press conference, key leaders and community partners will discuss the significance of Revive Awareness Day. They will also outline a series of forthcoming actions designed to intensify the fight against the opioid epidemic within the community. “The opioid epidemic continues to impact too many lives in Okaloosa County,” remarked Paul Mixon, Chairman of the Okaloosa County Board. His statement underscores a community-wide resolve, as various agencies and leaders unite to tackle opioid addiction—a complex challenge that necessitates a cohesive and robust response.

The county has recently initiated the Coordinated Opioid Recovery (CORE) Network, funded by Opioid Settlement resources. This innovative network is set to revolutionize addiction care by breaking the cycle of addiction and equipping individuals with essential recovery tools. Elizabeth Smith, Health Officer of the Florida Department of Health in Okaloosa County, highlighted the rising drug overdose deaths and praised the collaborative efforts to develop programs that enhance outcomes and access to services for those affected by substance use.

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Expanding Resources and Services

Among the new services is an expansion by Bridgeway Center, Inc., which now offers around-the-clock outpatient detoxification. This enhancement ensures continuous access to substance misuse information and Medication Assisted Treatment for opioid misuse, along with swift access to integrated patient care tailored for first responders.

Another innovative approach is the establishment of a Community Paramedicine program. This program deploys Community Paramedics to conduct home visits for at-risk patients, providing assessments and treatments specific to opioid use disorder and related conditions. These paramedics also play a crucial role in educating patients and connecting them to further support programs, enhancing the traditional home-care model.

Post-Overdose Response Initiative

Further bolstering the county’s strategies is the Okaloosa County Health Improvement Partnership’s (OCHIP) development of a post-overdose response team. This pioneering initiative involves a law enforcement officer, a community paramedic, and a behavioral health clinician who visit the homes of individuals who have recently overdosed. The aim is to provide immediate support and link these individuals to local treatment and support services, starting with a pilot program in collaboration with the Fort Walton Beach Police Department before expanding county-wide.

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Awareness and Immediate Actions During Overdoses

The community is also being educated on how to recognize the signs of an overdose, which include small pupils, unconsciousness, breathing difficulties, choking sounds, cold or clammy skin, discoloration, and limpness. In cases of suspected overdoses, the immediate steps to take include calling 911, administering naloxone if available, positioning the person safely, and keeping them awake until help arrives.

As Okaloosa County continues to develop and implement robust strategies against the opioid epidemic, the upcoming Revive Awareness Day stands as a crucial moment to reflect on the progress and recommit to the mission of saving lives and restoring hope within the community. For more information on opioid addiction and the resources available, visit the CORE Network’s website.

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