Jacksonville Doctor Proposes Pilot Program To Address Opioid Problem

Apr 5, 2017

Jacksonville City Councilman Bill Gulliford stands leading an opioid action meeting, Monday. Sitting beside him are councilman Scott Wilson and Dr. Raymond Pomm.
Credit Lindsey Kilbride / WJCT News

A Jacksonville doctor is proposing a pilot program to intervene when people come to the emergency room with heroin and Fentanyl overdoses.  

Dr. Raymond Pomm is medical director at two local addiction treatment centers, Gateway Community Services and River Region Human Services. He laid out his plan at Jacksonville City Councilman Bill Gulliford’s opioid action meeting Monday.  

He said his pilot would begin at UF Health. First responders would transport as many overdose victims there as possible, and recovering addicts trained through Jacksonville University — called peer recovery support specialists — would counsel them.

“Having the peer specialists is really important,” Pomm said. “This program will not work without them.”

As the patient is being stabilized, a peer specialist would speak with the patient's family members or significant others about resources and next steps.

Once stable, the specialist would speak with the patient.

They would get mental health screenings and referrals to Gateway or River Region for treatment, including detox or drug treatments  to help them not relapse.

If patients refuse treatment, family members would be counseled on using the Marchman Act, which can allows a patient to be committed  involuntarily for treatment.

Pomm said as he developed this pilot, he reached out to the Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association.

“Rather than reinventing the wheel, (I asked) ‘what models are working or happening in Florida?’ “ he said.  “And the answer was none.”

The number of opioid overdoses in Jacksonville have been rapidly growing. In 2015, the Jacksonville Fire Rescue Department transportation cost for overdose victims was $1.8 million; it’s estimated reach more than $4 million this year.

Pomm said he’s most concerned with Fentanyl overdoses. In hospitals, Fentanyl is used for anesthesia, epidurals and chronic pain. Now it's being mixed in with heroin and contributing to deaths.

“If we have some priority, (Fentanyl cases) would be the highest priority for these services,” he said.

He said each overdose case will be tested for Fentanyl upon arriving to the hospital.

Pomm said once the pilot shows results, he wants it expanded to every hospital in Jacksonville.

He’s hoping to start the program shortly after a large class of JU peer recovery support specialists graduate at the end of April. He said he’s looking to secure funding for it.

Reporter Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at lkilbride@wjct.org, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at @lindskilbride.