TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The state drug czar, Doug Simon, visited Tampa General Hospital Wednesday for International Overdose Awareness Day.
“You know our country is being flooded with fentanyl,” Simon said. “And this is a phenomenon we’ve never seen before.”
The hospital has a model of setting up overdose patients with recovery programs straight from the hospital — a system Simon said other hospitals can use.
“Not only is Tampa doing, but it’s — we’re pioneering it — we’re piloting it across the state,” Simon said. “About 12 other locations, and we’re going to see how this goes.”
Every 94 minutes, a patient goes to a Tampa Bay ER for a non-fatal overdose. In the first nine months of last year, Florida saw nearly 18,000 of those visits. But Tampa General is dedicated to breaking the overdose cycle.
“Every shift I work I will see a drug overdose,” said Dr. Jason Wilson. “Every shift I work I will see three times that many people with a drug addiction.”
Wilson works in the emergency department at the hospital. He says giving patients certain drugs to help with withdrawals, as well as setting them up with peer-to-peer mentors that are in active recovery themselves prevents more repeat overdoses.
“We’re in an ongoing epidemic around opioid-use disorder,” Dr. Wilson said. “We’re trying to break the cycle of that epidemic. We’re doing that by making a system of care – a continuous harm-reduction continuum.”
Doug Simon says this method will help more people than just the patients in the hospital.
“EMS and the police, you’re reducing the numbers that they have to keep bringing back. So this is really going to help the whole system, not to mention the families that are going through this problem.”
The mayors of Tampa, St. Petersburg, Bradenton and New Port Richey have all decided to light up various bridges and downtown municipal buildings in the color purple on Aug. 31 for International Overdose Awareness Day.