As local officials and law enforcement continue to grapple with finding solutions for the opioid crisis, there is hope that a new donation might be a step in the right direction.
The United Way, in conjunction with the Lee County Coalition for a Drug-Free Southwest Florida, received a donation of 10,000 Deterra Disposal Bags, a way to dispose of expired or unneeded pharmaceuticals in an effort to keep them out of the hands of those who might abuse them.
“These are the bags that are going to help us get more and more medications off of the street and out of the hands of people who shouldn’t ever have access to them,” Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto said at a press conference Wednesday.
Mallinckrodt Pharmaceutical Group donated the bags, which when combined with warm water, create a reaction inside the pouch to release carbon and deactivate any medications placed inside them. The carbon in the Deterra bags renders the drugs inert, which allows them to be safely thrown in the trash.
“It’s honestly ten thousand reasons to look forward to the future of our working together to get these drugs off the street,” Deborah Comella of the Lee County Coalition for a Drug-Free Southwest Florida said.
The plan is to distribute the bags in areas where there is a high-risk for abuse, as well as to those who aren’t mobile and thus can’t easily properly dispose of medications in a way that will deactivate them. Drugs just thrown in the trash or flushed down a toilet can increase the risk of water contamination, or still be usable by those looking to abuse them.
The organizations were joined by Benacquisto, state Reps. Dane Eagle and Ray Rodrigues, and Lee County Undersheriff Carmine Marceno.
“We can’t thank the representatives enough for their fight against this crisis, and it’s one amazing step forward for our ability to adapt to the problem,” said Cliff Smith, president of the United Way of Lee, Hendry, Glades, and Okeechobee.
There were 955 Opioid related deaths in Lee County reported in 2017. 61 of them were heroin of Fentanyl related, which is quickly rising to the top as the number one killer of non-prescribed users.
“It’s a boon, given to us by the ability and hard work of our state representatives, and I can’t honestly express how happy I am that we are working together to solve this problem,” Marceno said.
A scary moment happened at the end of the press conference when Rodrigues appeared to faint. While walking off the stage, Rodrigues seemed woozy and collapsed. Those on the stage, including Marceno, Eagle, Benacquisto and Smith came to his aid and helped him to a chair.
Rodrigues said at the event that he had been feeling sick recently and was probably just dehydrated, but was treated by paramedics and taken to a nearby hospital as a precaution.
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