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Hillsborough schedules summit to tackle opioid crisis

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

As is the case throughout Florida and the country, opioid abuse has exploded in Hillsborough County over the past few years.

“The State of the Opioid Crisis in Hillsborough County” is a daylong summit to address the rising public health issue by featuring medical, mental health and law enforcement officials on Tuesday, Sept. 26, at TPepin’s Hospitality Centre.

In late 2014, overdoses in the county began to spike. By 2016, 185 of the county’s 197 fatal drug overdoses involved opioid use, a rate of one fatal opioid overdose every two days. An increasing number of fatal overdoses involve heroin and fentanyl. The Hillsborough County Medical Examiner has recorded 18 deaths associated with fentanyl in 2017 from Jan. 1 through July 31.

The summit includes a panel discussion with the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, and the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner’s Office. It’s being organized by Suncoast Community Health Centers. Welcoming remarks will come from Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman, who championed bringing the event to Hillsborough County.

An increasing number of fatal overdoses involve heroin and fentanyl. The Hillsborough County Medical Examiner has recorded 18 deaths associated with fentanyl from Jan. 1 through July 31 of 2017.

Statewide, opioids were the direct cause of death of 2,538 Floridians and contributed to an additional 1,358 deaths in 2015, the last year data is available.

Gov. Rick Scott declared a public health emergency over the opioid crisis back in May, several years into the epidemic.

Featured speakers at the Hillsborough summit include Dr. Benjamin Nordstrom, senior vice president at Phoenix House, Tom Hill, vice president of addiction and recovery for the National Council for Behavioral Health, and Dr. Mark Gold, chairman of the RiverMend Health Scientific Advisory Board.

The summit will be from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at TPepin’s Hospitality Centre, 4121 N. 50th St. in Tampa. Attendance is free, but reservations are required. For more information or to RSVP, contact Amy Nizamoff at anizamoff@suncoast-chc.org or (813) 653-6206.

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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