Manatee County sets Tuesday meeting to deal with heroin spike

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The Manatee County Government Department of Public Safety will hold a town hall-style meeting regarding the resurgence of heroin overdoses at 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Public Safety Center, 2101 47th Terrace E., Bradenton.

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James Crutchfield, program manager for community paramedicine, said the meeting was called after the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office reported heroin overdoses are on the rise again. Crutchfield also said law officers indicated heroin is being cut with carfentanil, which is different than cutting agents used before, and hospital protocols for treatment may now have to be changed to deal with it.“Prehospital treatment modalities are going to change due to this new information and there is a high chance that the hospital treatment plans will need to change, too,” Crutchfield said in an email announcing the meeting.

The Bradenton Herald reported Friday authorities are saying heroin and fentanyl overdoses are plaguing Manatee and Sarasota counties again.

The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office has responded to 14 overdoses since July 1, two of which were fatal. According to a release, investigators warn users heroin seized locally has traces of fentanyl and carfentanil, a synthetic opioid drug with nearly 10,000 times the potency of morphine. The National Center of Biotechnology Information defines carfentanil as an analogue of the popular synthetic opioid analgesic fentanyl, and the most potent opioid used commercially. Carfentanil is intended for large-animal use only, according to NCBI, as its extreme potency makes it inappropriate for use in humans.

And in Manatee, sheriff’s spokesman Dave Bristow noted a trend Friday of an increased use of fentanyl stemming from overdose calls.

“A lot of our overdoses, we’re learning, are not heroin. They’re fentanyl,” Bristow said. “It just seems like the recent surge we’ve had, a good amount of those, are just fentanyl where before a lot of them would be heroin mixed with fentanyl or just heroin. Now, we’re finding people are just using fentanyl, especially the fatalities that we’re having.”

As of 5:30 p.m. Friday, there were 12 overdose calls, according to the Manatee County Emergency Communications Center. A woman at the center said there could be more because some 911 callers don’t say right away that it’s an overdose.

In light of the recent trend, the sheriff’s office rereleased a video encouraging people to call 911 if someone overdoses, which is a reference to the Good Samaritan law. The PSA also directs those struggling with addiction to resources for help, according to the release. The 30-second PSA is viewable on the agency web site, YouTube channel and social media pages.

In June, the Bradenton Herald reported heroin-related calls and deaths had been declining in Manatee County the past several months after a two-year epidemic saw Manatee become the epicenter of the crisis in Florida. In July, however, area law enforcement again reported a significant spike in heroin-related cases.

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