As the number of opioid overdoses continues to climb in Jacksonville, the city is funding a $1.4 million opioid intervention pilot program. The program started last Thursday, and so far four people have accepted the help.
Rescue Chief David Castleman with the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department said the program will run Thursdays through Sundays each week for the program's six-month duration.
He told the Jacksonville City Council Neighborhoods, Community Services, Public Health & Safety Committee Monday that the first patient to accept help was a mother of two young children.
“She said yes and was thrilled that the program was available,” Castleman said. “She said without the program she would have gone back out in the street and overdosed again.”
He said Sunday night three more people agreed to participate. In addition, one patient refused treatment and another died.
The pilot program connects those who overdose and are transported to St. Vincent's Medical Center Riverside with peer recovery specialists who then educate them about treatment options.
The specialist follows-up with them throughout detox and their treatment, which can be in- or out-patient through River Region Human Services or Gateway Community Services treatment centers.
Dr. Raymond Pomm, medical director at both centers, said on WJCT’s First Coast Connect Monday, the pilot program even involves transporting the patient to detox, so they aren’t back on the street.
“They will be wrapped around with supportive care throughout,” he said.
Castleman told the council committee most JFRD overdose calls happen between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. and Friday is the peak day.
“ [Zipcode] 32210 is the highest overdose response area over on the Westside,” Castleman said.
Councilman Garrett Dennis, who represents some of the Westside, asked Castleman if there was a plan to expand the pilot program to Park West ER on the Westside’s 103rd Street.
“Are we confident that [Park West is] able to treat the overdose patients seeing that between January and [Nov. 18] over 300 overdose patients were taken over to Park West?” Dennis asked.
Castleman said there hasn’t been a conversation to expand the program to Park West, but there has been discussion about expanding the program to St. Vincent’s Healthcare’s Clay and Southside locations.
“At this point we’re four days in and I think we want to see what the overdose data shows, what the success rate is initially of the patients who were willing to be accepted into the program and then we’re certainly more than willing to have those conversations,” Castleman told Dennis.
JFRD transports patients to the hospital their medical records are at, if they’re stable and can relay that information to rescue personnel. Castleman said if the patient isn’t stable they’re taken to the closest and most appropriate hospital.
Castleman said 85 percent of overdose victims in Duval are white, and most are men. The average age is 33 years old.
JFRD and doctors with the program will be updating the city council every month throughout the program and it will be up for review at the end of six months to see if it’s working.
Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at email@example.com, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at @lindskilbride.