As we close 2023, we feel the weight of the persistence of the overdose crisis, but we also feel gratitude and hope for our work in the coming year.
The stubborn persistence of this epidemic has continued to have a strong hold on our region despite declining number of deaths in the U.S. and across Florida. Every 4 ½ hours someone’s neighbor, child, employee, loved one dies of an opioid overdose in the Tampa Bay region. Of these deaths, the overwhelming majority are due to fentanyl poisoning. In fact, fentanyl is now the number 1 cause of death of people under 50 years-old.
We are also filled with hope for the coming year. We are hopeful because of the incredible team we have assembled and the passionate partners we have brought into our efforts. We are hopeful because the rate of opioid overdose death has finally slowed in the Tampa Bay region. We went from a 45.5% increase in the opioid overdose death rate in 2020 to 14.6% increase in 2022. This represents 966 lives saved. We are also hopeful because the many evidence-based, interlocking practices we know to be successful are finally securing funding and getting off the ground. We are excited to be a part these efforts.
As we begin the new year, we look forward to expanding our team even further, pulling in even more partners, and launching additional new partnerships around these life-saving practices. We also look forward to joining together with other leaders from across Florida as we identify new opportunities to advocate for expanding these evidence-based practices, enlarging the behavioral health workforce, increasing consistent, flexible funding for treatment, and forging new partnerships for change.
Here’s to a Bright New Year!
PS: Please mark your calendar for March 15 for our 3rd Annual Leaders Luncheon to End Overdose. Details are in the Events section of this newsletter.