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Our goals are to get the people who need it, the addicts, some help and keep the community safe
CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Fla. – The Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office has a new team – An overdose unit.
“We investigate every overdose that comes into this county that’s reported,” Lt. Rocco Sasano said. “We have detectives who are assigned to the unit that respond whether it’s nights, weekends, anytime. They go out, investigate completely until every avenue is exhausted.”
Overdose investigators with CCSO explained most addicts they come into contact with don’t want to be addicts, but are scared to stop.
“They are frightened, they are scared,” Sgt. Craig Brandon said. “Because their world, what they know, are their friends and associates they’re using with. That’s what’s comfortable, that’s what’s normal to them.”
The unit investigates every overdose, whether it is fatal or not.
“Our goals are to get the people who need it, the addicts, some help and keep the community safe,” Lt. Rocco said. “[And] hold people who are dealing and supplying criminally responsible for that.”
For those who are not addicts themselves, or know someone who is suffering from addiction, this overdose unit also benefits you.
“Because the unit investigating these crimes and trying to rid the narcotic from the community, it keeps them safe in the sense that when people want to purchase these narcotics, and they don’t have the funds to do so they’ll resort to other means,” Lt. Casano said. “By stealing, taking, breaking into cars, homes, to get the money, or personal property to exchange for money or narcotics so by addressing the overdoses and the drug trade in the community it keeps the community safer.”
The unit is not just investigating these overdoses after they happen, they are working on prevention too.
“Also there are many community partners in Charlotte County that advocate and push the awareness out there for people to get help – letting people know there are free services available,” Sgt. Brandon said.
Investigators and licensed mental health counselors agree most addicts they come into contact with don’t want to be addicts.
“I hear it all the time that I don’t want to be addicted to drugs but I am addicted to drugs,” Kelly Decker said, a licensed mental health counselor working for Charlotte Behavioral Health Care in conjunction with CCSO. “[They say] ‘I don’t know how to get out of it,’ and ‘I’m scared to get out of it because they don’t know what their life is going to be like.’”
Having a support system is key to getting sober, according to the overdose unit. Decker said addiction does not just impact one person. It impacts the whole family and those around them. She said addiction is not something a person necessarily chooses, but instead it’s a disease.
“I think it’s about having real conversations with that person, not passing judgement and letting them know they’re here to help them when they’re ready,” Decker said.
Decker acknowledged sometimes people are not willing to get help or go into detox programs like what’s offered with Charlotte County’s drug addiction recovery initiative. In those cases, Decker said there are other conversations to have.
“Let’s talk about harm reduction, safer use practices,” she said. “let’s talk about not using dirty needles, and why it’s important not to use dirty needles. Why it is important to clean up abscesses you have or get your abscesses checked out.”
CCSO partnered with Charlotte Behavioral Health, which offers free Narcan for this overdose unit. Investigators said it’s important addicts get help as soon as they’re ready because there can be dire consequences if they don’t.
“I can tell you that statistics show that a person is 800 times more likely to overdose again once they had the first overdose, and it’s 100 times more likely to die from an overdose after your first overdose,” Decker said.
It’s important to know if you or someone you know is overdosing, call for help. You won’t be charged with possession if you’re calling for life saving assistance.
“The statute is clear that if you are with someone who overdosed or you’re overdosing yourself and you summons the police by calling 911 you’re not going to be held responsible for possession of narcotics that are within that area or within your reach,” Lt. Casano said. “It’s specific to that, the possession of the narcotic, so we don’t want people to fear calling 911. We would encourage them to call, they won’t be held accountable for that by reaching out to law enforcement.”Opioid Crisis Overdoses