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Pinellas Commission approves $2 million to fight opioid fatalities

The funding will increase naloxone distribution and create a county overdose Quick Response Team.
The drug Narcan can be administered to restore breathing in the event of an overdose.
The drug Narcan can be administered to restore breathing in the event of an overdose. [ MATT ROURKE | AP ]
Published Oct. 13

Pinellas County commissioners voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve a $2 million federal grant to address the county’s growing number of overdoses.

The grant, from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, will provide $500,000 annually for four years, and will be used to increase distribution of overdose reversal medications and provide more training resources around overdose response.

It will also fund the creation of a county overdose Quick Response Team, or QRT, which will follow up with those patients suspected of having overdosed and who used emergency medical services for up to 90-days after the event.

The QRT will provide additional outreach and treatment options to individuals who opt-in to being contacted. Similar programs have been implemented across the country, and have been found to help communities decrease overdose death rates. Pinellas County will collect data that will inform the program going forward.

The funding comes at a time when overdoses are on the rise.

Between 2016 and 2020, the number of annual overdoses in Pinellas County more than quadrupled. The number of suspected overdose calls during the 2020 fiscal year was 6,528, according to county reports.

The increase follows national trends, as overdose deaths spiked nationally during the pandemic. Florida had one of the greatest increases in overdose fatalities nationally between 2019 and 2020, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control.

In Pinellas County last year, one person died every 16.5 hours from a drug-related overdose.

Related: READ MORE: Overdose deaths in Tampa Bay’s Black community are skyrocketing

Now that funding has been approved, county officials will begin a competitive solicitation process to work with an organization that can hire the case manager and peer support staff to implement the programs.

There are no match or cost sharing requirements for the grant.