By Rita Chamberlain, Associate Director of Drug Free Manatee

Florida is implementing a multi-level response to the opioid overdose crisis, with strategies at the local level e.g. Drug Free Manatee’s Addiction Crisis Task Force (ACT), regionally and on a statewide basis. Recently, through the federally-funded Florida Partnerships for Success (PFS) project, eight counties were selected for Drug Epidemiology Networks (DENs) development (Broward, Duval, Franklin, Hillsborough, Manatee, Palm Beach, Washington and Walton). The PFS project runs from October 1, 2016, through September 30, 2021.

Epidemiology is the study of the distribution and determinants of health-related conditions or events (including disease and wellness), in terms of people, place, and time. In other words, this is the epitome of “data geek-dom”: a mission to gather all available and relevant data that captures the reality of the opioid crisis (in Manatee County and across the State) in order to design effective strategies to meet the problem head-on.

DF Manatee convened a broad range of community experts for an initial DENs training in March 2017 that included: Sergeant Jason Powell, Manatee County Sheriff’s Office; Nathan L. Scott III, Family Safety Alliance; Joshua T. Barnett, Health Care Svces. Mgr., Manatee County Government; Laura Little, Operations Manager /Emergency Services, Manatee Memorial Hospital; Javier Max Córdova, Senior Fellow, Comprehensive Drug Research Center (CDRC), University of Miami; Dr. M. Scott Young, Research Assistant Professor, USF;  Dr. Jonathan Coffman, Associate Professor, LECOM School of Graduate Studies; Dr. Laura Ter Doest, Community Health Division, FL DOH-Manatee; James Crutchfield, Chief, Manatee County Community Paramedicine; Nikesha Yarbrough, Florida Poison Information Center – Tampa; Samantha Kolb, Director, Centerstone Addiction Treatment Center; Hal Johnson, evaluator CFBHN; and Rita Chamberlain, Assoc. Director, Drug Free Manatee.

The training, provided by the Department of Children and Families (DCF) evaluator Jim Hall, gave participants insight and direction in order to begin work on the PFS project to:

  1. Reduce prescription drug misuse among Floridians ages 12-25 and the nonmedical use of opioids among Floridians ages 26 and older;
  2. Reduce the number of accidental and intentional deaths caused by opioids; and
  3. Strengthen prevention capacity and infrastructure at the state and community levels.

Another component of the PFS project is to revitalize the State Epidemiological Outcomes Workgroup (SEOW). Rita Chamberlain, representing the Manatee DENs, will join the PFS project team at the first SEOW meeting on June 13, 2017, at the Fletcher Building in Tallahassee. This meeting will be the first annual SEOW gathering where local-level drug epidemiology networks (DENs) from around the state will come together to present on drug surveillance efforts taking place in their community to help inform a state-level report that will be published in September of 2017.