FL: Overdose deaths in Pinellas County are rapidly rising

Dan Zsido, the Trainig and Education Director of the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators, says the Pinellas is on par to surpass the 2020 numbers and he says Fentanyl is a huge part of the equation.

As a retired lieutenant with nearly 40 years of law enforcement experience, Dan Zsido spent much of his time in the narcotics division.

He says death investigations were especially hard.

“It was so heartfelt to watch a mom throw herself on top of her son that passed away in the middle of the night or her daughter,” he said. “To watch that grief, it had a profound effect on all of us.”

And scenes like that continue to play out more now than ever before. The CDC reports 11 or more people die every hour from a drug overdose.

“We see daily law-enforcement healthcare prevention and we tried to make our best effort to combat it but what we’re seeing over the last several years is that the overdose incidents and the deaths are increasing rapidly and it’s very alarming,” said Zsido.

Here in Pinellas County, the Medical examiner’s office reported 179 overdose deaths in 2015. 5 years later in 2020, it reported 546 OD deaths. For the first 6 months of this year, it reported 298 OD deaths. Zsido says the Pinellas is on par to surpass the 2020 numbers and he says Fentanyl is a huge part of the equation.

“Fentanyl has only been on the horizon for less than a decade in this county. We saw it probably in this county in 2013 and we saw it occasionally and then from there, we started to see it more. A few more times every month and then now it’s a daily occurrence,” he said.

Emergency medical transports in Pinellas County of suspected overdoses increased by nearly 331% from 2016-2020, while 911 transports where Narcan was administered increased by 56%.

Zsido, who now is now a training and education director for the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators believes Narcan is undoubtedly saving lives and talking to young kids before they’re introduced to drugs to hopefully steer them away from experimenting.

“We like to think that we’re planting seeds with them so when they get to a point in their life as an adult and they’re at a friends house or a party or gathering someone says take this, swallow this, drink this, or smoke this, that reason will kick in and hopefully will prevent another tragedy,” he said.

Pinellas County received $2 million in federal grant money which will support a community outreach program to better connect residents with effective treatment.
The county has also had a task force in place since 2017 to combat the crisis.

The Pinellas County Sheriffs office has a list of treatment centers in Pinellas County on its website, click here to learn more.

The Florida Health Department also has resources for treatment, click here to learn more.

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