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Task Force Meets To Address Heroin in Orange County

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs File photo, WMFE.

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs File photo, WMFE.

A task force meets for the first time today to tackle Orange County’s growing heroin problem. In April, heroin narrowly overtook cocaine as the deadliest street drug in Orange County.

Orange County’s mayor and sheriff head the 20-member task force. It will spend six months researching and recommending what the county and law enforcement should do to battle the rise in heroin use.

Experts say heroin use is growing quickly, in part because Florida has cracked down on prescription pill abuse. By almost every measure, residents of Orange County are turning to heroin in greater numbers, with sometimes deadly results:

  • A 400 percent increase in the number of times law enforcement has had a state lab test for heroin, more than all other Central Florida counties combined.
  • A 43 percent jump in the number of heroin-related bookings into the jail.
  • A 38 percent increase in heroin overdose deaths.

And heroin use is growing among most demographics, including young professionals. The Orange County Heroin Task Force will recommend ways to combat heroin in four broad areas: Law enforcement, education and prevention, health care and treatment.

Some ideas – like a needle exchange – would require a state law to be passed. 

Check here for the story of the local increase in heroin deaths, and check here to see a heat map of heroin overdoses in Central Florida.

See below for a list of the task force members.

  • Honorable Teresa Jacobs, Orange County Mayor, Co-Chair
  • Honorable Jerry L. Demings, Orange County Sheriff, Co-Chair
  • Honorable Jeffrey L. Ashton, State Attorney, Ninth Judicial Circuit
  • Danny Banks, Special Agent in Charge, Orlando Region, FDLE
  • Joe Cocchiarella, General Counsel & Interim Director, Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation
  • Steve Collins, Director, Central Florida HIDTA
  • Grant H. Cornwell, Ph.D., President, Rollins College
  • Michael Deichen, M.D., MPH, Director, UCF Health Services
  • Carolann Duncan, Regional Director, FL Department of Children and Families
  • Dr. Maribeth Ehasz, Vice President, UCF SDES
  • Mike Griffin, Vice President of Public Affairs, Florida Hospital (Representative Pending)
  • Douglas Hardy, M.D., Clinical Director, NICU, Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies
  • Dr. Barbara Jenkins, Superintendent, Orange County Public Schools
  • Deputy Chief Brett Meade, UCF Police Department
  • Chief John Mina, Orlando Police Department
  • George Ralls, M.D., Orange County Health and Public Safety Director
  • Chief Cornita Riley, Orange County Corrections Department
  • Kevin Sherin, M.D., Director, Florida Department of Health in Orange County
  • Sanford Shugart,  Ph.D., President, Valencia College
  • Joshua Stephany, M.D., Interim Medical Examiner, District Nine Medical Examiner’s Office
  • Josef Thundiyil, M.D., Emergency Medicine, Orlando Health

WMFE is a partner with Health News Florida, a statewide collaborative reporting on health care.

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Abe Aboraya

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