In recognition of the need to combat the altogether staggering number of fatalities here in Florida attributable to heroin and prescription opiate overdoses, state lawmakers took the bold step of passing the Emergency Treatment and Recovery Act.
The measure, signed into law by Governor Rick Scott this past summer, allows those people with loved ones who are struggling with an addiction to heroin or opioid painkillers to secure a prescription for a potentially lifesaving drug that has heretofore only been available to emergency medical professionals.
The drug, naloxone, is designed to block one of the greatest risks of an opioid overdose -- respiratory depression -- thereby allowing someone to breathe. In simpler terms, it's a fast-acting injectable solution for those who have overdosed on opioids.
It's not just friends and family members who now have increased access to naloxone, however, as the state's law enforcement officials are now similarly equipped.
Indeed, the Sarasota County Sheriff's Department recently became one of the first agencies in the state to take possession of the drug, ordering 400 auto-injector kits and providing the necessary training to deputies.
While some might question why law enforcement officials should bother with naloxone, consider that they often arrive ahead of ambulances when responding to 911 calls concerning overdoses, and that time is of the absolute essence when it comes to saving someone who has already gone into respiratory arrest.
As such, having naloxone at the scene will help prevent overdose deaths before the arrival of paramedics -- and before those who have substance abuse issues are given the chance to turn their lives around.
"We understand preventing overdose deaths will not automatically mean the patient will overcome addiction, but it gives them and their family an opportunity to enter into addiction recovery programs," said the Sarasota County Sheriff.
Over the coming months, it's likely that more and more agencies across the state will be securing their own supplies of naloxone, a truly encouraging development that means law enforcement is perhaps finally focusing on more than just making arrests.
Consider speaking with an experienced legal professional if you have been charged with a drug crime, and would like to learn more about your options as they relate to treatment or other alternatives to incarceration.