WEST PALM BEACH — It’s a plan to take on the heroin epidemic that’s already causing controversy behind the scenes.
Unbeknown to the general public, the Palm Beach County Heroin Overdose Task Force kicked off a pilot project last week that calls for firefighters to deliver drugs to treat heroin addicts at home, and under the protection of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.
Deputies reached out to Gossip Extra to let us know of the plan, and some deputies don’t believe they should be involved.
“On top of everything else, we now have to cater to drug addicts,” said one road patrolman who asked not to be named because he fears retaliation from his superiors. “This is going to put additional duties on not only the deputies who stand by but also the rest of the guys who have to cover for them.”
According to a internal PBSO memo obtained by Gossip Extra, Palm Beach County Fire Rescue and JFK Medical Center are coordinating the project. It kicked off Feb. 23, and for now is taking place in and around Lake Worth. It could be expanded to the entire county later this year.
The first step is to identify heroin addicts who suffered from overdoses, and gauge whether they’re good candidates for a new treatment that combines withdrawal drugs and behavioral counseling. In studies, it has shown an 80 percent success rate.
Second, the patients are administered pills of the withdrawal drug Suboxone by members of Palm Beach County Fire Rescue at home. Drug counselors are visiting the patients at home as well.
After eight days of daily visits by fire rescue and counselors, the county’s Health Department takes the patients under its care for another three weeks.
According to the PBSO memo below, deputies are required to escort the fire crews to meet with the addicts.
“PBCFR personnel will have a substantial amount of medication in their vehicles and are worried about a breech (sic) to their vehicle where the medication could be stolen. The process should only take minutes, and is not expected to create a burden of delay to our deputies,” the memo reads.
“The deputy will only be required to stand by outside the patient’s residence, unless PBCFR determines there’s a need for added protection by law enforcement.”
This is yet another Gossip Extra exclusive you shouldn’t expect to see in West Palm Beach’s corporate media until days from now. Why? Like their readers and viewers, their sources have deserted them. Bypass them, #dropthepaper and click here to subscribe to our daily alerts!
By the way, Suboxone is a narcotic drug used to treat heroin addiction by blocking some of heroin’s most pleasurable effects while feeding the addicts’ cravings.
PBCFR Capt. Houston Park, who chaired a task force that came up with the idea, says the project mirrors a 30-patient study from Yale University.
The county’s project will also involve 30 patients before it is reevaluated.
Fire rescue making house calls, Park says, is to ensure the proper administration of the drug, which is done orally, and proper medical followups in patients who might not take their medication and/or seek proper medical attention.
Makes financial sense, Park says.
“Remember that this epidemic, which causes 4,000 calls for service per year, is an unfunded liability for government,” Houston tells Gossip Extra. “This method of treatment could save lives, and money. It’s got to be a total community effort, including PBSO, all area hospitals and health care officials.”