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First Coast Connect

2/2/2017: Opioid Epidemic; Vilnius On Nova; Melanin Market And Parade

Thursday on First Coast Connect, 4th District medical examiner Dr. Valerie Rao and Lt. Mark Rowley, quality improvement officer with the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department, talked about how the opioid epidemic is straining their offices. We also spoke by phone with Abe Gol about an upcoming NOVA episode dealing with the discovery of tunnels in Lithuania used by Jews to escape the Nazi’s during the Holocaust, and Niki Brunson and Dana Miller, organizers of Saturday’s Melanin Market and Parade in Jacksonville.  


Opioid Epidemic

Rao said the number of overdoses due to Opioids is on such a dramatic increase that the freezer where bodies are stored awaiting an autopsy is filled to capacity. She said her office has had to tell hospitals and funeral homes they need to keep bodies until space is made available. Rao said in 2016 there were 544 Opioid related deaths in the district. Rowley said since 2014 the number of paramedic calls responding to overdoses have tripled.          


NOVA: Vilnius

Seventy years ago, the Eastern European town of Vilnius, was known as the Jerusalem of Lithuania, a bustling town home to more than 100,000 Jews. But then it all vanished.

In three years during the Holocaust, 95 percent of Lithuanian Jews were killed. But hidden within this tragedy is a story of hope and courage that archeologists are just now bringing to light. Cutting edge technology is revealing an escape tunnel where survivors dug their way to freedom outside Vilnius. The PBS program NOVA filmed the team as they made their incredible find. The NOVA documentary will feature interviews with archaeologists, geophysicists and scholars describing the fate of Jews housed near Vilnius.

Second generation Holocaust survivor Abe Gol is one of the people NOVA interviewed. He spoke with us about his father’s experience in helping build the tunnel and how he was able to escape.

WJCT is hosting a preview of the NOVA episode Feb. 9, including an appearance by Richard Freund who joined the archaeological team that discovered the tunnels. The event is sold out. The NOVA documentary will air on WJCT Public Television later this year.   

Melanin Market and Parade

It’s a brand new event this weekend on Jacksonville’s Eastside.

The Melanin Market and Parade is 9 a.m. Saturday and will have everything from fresh food to health screenings. The neighborhood marketplace will  provide fresh food options, showcase local businesses, nonprofits, artist, entertainers, educational and health screenings. The parade will start from Gilbert Middle School and end on Union Street and A. Philip Randolph Boulevard.  Vendors will be lined up on the sidewalks for three blocks. The location is 822 A. Philip Randolph Blvd.

Producer Kevin Meerschaert can be reached at, 904-358-6334 or on Twitter at @KMeerschaertJax.

Kevin Meerschaert has left WJCT for new pursuits. He was the producer of First Coast Connect until October of 2018.