To combat a growing epidemic of drug deaths in Central Florida, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and Sheriff Jerry Demings held the inaugural meeting of the newly formed Heroin Task Force Monday afternoon in downtown Orlando.
“Every day we deal with tough issues, but nothing is more important than the safety of our young people,” Jacobs said during a news conference before the meeting. “Today, the newest cycle of heroin abuse is aimed at our young people. … We’ve battled pill mills together and successfully, and together we’re going to battle heroin successfully”
In Orange County alone, there have been 90 deaths from heroin overdose since 2013. Experts blame increased availability and purity of the drugs for the upward trend.
“We have seen the tragedy of the heroin epidemic come here to Central Florida. It is now here in Orlando,” Demings said. “We’re sounding the alarm that something needs to be done in order to combat this rising problem.”
For its first meeting, the task force went through introductions and education about the drug itself. There were questions over whether the likely medical marijuana amendment could cause potentially vulnerable users to use the more potent drug. A physician on the panel, though, said only 8 percent of marijuana users become physically addicted enough to consider switching to a powerful alternative such as heroin.
There was preliminary discussion on ways to combat the problem. Demings said he believes targeting “supply and demand” is the key by arresting dealers, and providing treatment to those addicted.
Westgate Resorts CEO David Siegel, a well-known community business leader, also attended the meeting. Siegel, who lost his daughter Victoria to an overdose last month, calls for random drug testing in schools.
“Before I buried her,” he told reporters at the news conference, “I wanted her death to have a meaning and save thousands of lives.”