SHALIMAR — The Okaloosa County Board County Commissioners has approved a partnership between the Okaloosa County Department of Public Safety EMS Division and the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office to address the rising opioid/heroin overdose problem in this region of the stat

The partnership should reduce overdose-related mortality in Okaloosa County.

OSCO Undersheriff Don Adams reported that in 2015 “Okaloosa County Sheriff’s deputies responded to 55 heroin/opiate overdoses," 19 of which caused deaths.

EMS Chief Tracey Vause Okaloosa reported that EMS administered Narcan, a lifesaving opioid antagonist medication, 343 times on 233 different patients in the same period. 

The OSCO and EMS plan to increase community access to Narcan through the Early Opiate Overdose Intervention Partnership Program, as "OSCOis well positioned and can be easily trained to safely carry and administer Narcan to suspected opioid overdose patients, sometimes well in advance of an incoming EMS ambulance," as stated in a media release. "The EMS Medical Director will oversee the training of Sheriff’s deputies and monitor the use of Naloxone under this program," the release stated.

"Opioid use, such as heroine and prescription opiates like morphine, OxyContin, and fentanyl, has increased across most demographic groups in the U.S. regardless of sex, age, race or income levels. In July 2015, the CDC reported findings that heroin use and heroin-related overdose deaths in the U.S. have increased substantially and the rate of heroin-related overdose deaths nearly quadrupled from 2002 - 2013. In 2013 alone over 8,200 people died from heroin overdose.

"As well, Okaloosa County EMS, the Department of Health in Okaloosa County and the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office have all experienced a measurable increase in opiate-related overdoses in Okaloosa County requiring some form of immediate out-of-hospital intervention," according to the release.