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Heroin Deaths Skyrocket On First Coast; Sheriffs Vow Crackdown

Farryn James

The number of heroin-related deaths has sharply risen in Northeast Florida recently. Duval County Sheriff Mike Williams and Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper held a press conference Friday to discuss the growing problem.

Leeper says he is cracking down.

“Our message is pretty simple. If you’re a drug dealer, we’re coming after you. If you’re a drug addict, we want you to know there are some dangerous drugs on our street right now. The next 911 call we get could be a result of your death," he says. "So if you want to get help, if you want to get off these drugs, live a clean and sober life, then call us.”

Dr. Kelly Wells, director of the Duval County Health Department, says one issue contributing to rise in heroin use is the lack of availability and high cost of other drugs.

“In a community when you have a population that may be addicted to prescription drugs and then you make prescription drugs unavailable," she says, "now prescription drugs are more expensive than cheaper opiate-based products.”

Duval County officials say 45 people died heroin-related deaths in Jacksonville last year. That’s a 265 percent increase from 2014. Sheriff Williams says it's not just death; heroin can cause seizures too.  

The sheriff is asking for the community to reach out for assistance for anyone who's addicted. The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's Help Desk is at 1-800-662-HELP. And Florida’s Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.