CORAL SPRINGS, FL – Every year, close to 100 people suffer a drug overdose in Coral Springs – and about 30 of them die, fire officials said.
It’s a problem the Coral Springs-Parkland Fire Department has tried to address for years as the nation’s opioid crisis worsened over time.
But soon, fire administrators are hoping to make a new attempt to stem the overdose rates. It would be through an innovative new program that would ween people addicted to opioids like heroin or painkillers with a combination of medicine, treatment, and compassion, said Juan Cardona, a division chief in the fire department.
Still a few months away, the new program, if all the pieces come together, would be a unique cooperation between public agencies, private sector, and those recovering from addiction and willing to participate, Cardona said.
“We want to provide a way out for people who live with dependence, so they can live productive lives again,” he said.
The program’s key component is the administration of Suboxone, a form of the withdrawal-reversal drug buprenorphine, for people recovering from an overdose.
Here’s how the program would work, Cardona said.
- A person suffers an overdose, goes to the hospital for treatment, and then returns home.
- At the person’s home, Coral Springs-Parkland paramedics would show up for seven consecutive days to provide a dose of Suboxone.
- After seven days or earlier, the person would be able to sign-up for a treatment program.
It’s modeled after a similar initiative in Palm Beach County, which was initially developed by Yale-New Haven Hospital in Connecticut.
For Cardona and other officials on the front lines of helping people addicted to drugs, the only way to reduce the overdoses is to try new approaches. Too often, he said, those addicted to opioids overdose, again and again.
“This goes on until the person is dead,” he said.
The new program would aim to embrace those addicted to opioids with medicine and treatment options, he said. And the vital part: follow-ups at home with Suboxone -- one of the brand names for buprenorphine, prescribed by doctors, and shown through early research to produce more lasting recovery from opioid addiction than other forms of therapy.
“Our number one objective in the fire department is adding value to people’s lives – and we do that by keeping them healthy and home,” he said.