The opioid crisis has reached epidemic levels all over the nation and the effects we are seeing in Palm Beach County are harrowing.
As authorities crack down on heroin, people are turning to synthetics to satiate their addiction and it’s coming at a high cost.
Heroin is ten times more potent than morphine. Fentanyl is 100 times more potent than morphine and carfentanyl is 1000 times more potent.
“It’s essentially an elephant tranquilizer,” says Director of substance abuse treatment program Village for Change, Andrew Wallick.
“The potency is what’s leading to the overdoses,” he said. “And according to Palm Beach County Fire Rescue, we’ve got about 5.5 overdoses a day.”
One of the biggest issues associated with the opioid epidemic in South Florida is the prevalence of for-profit sober homes.
According to the Sober Homes Task Force, there were over 900 licensed substance abuse treatment providers in Florida with countless non-licensed entities operating within the state.
“Some of these for-profit places market themselves all over the country and bring clients down to Florida,” Andrew said. “When their insurance runs out, they get booted and this leads to more overdoses and death.”
Community Partners’ Village for Change is different.
An 18-bed residential facility located in suburban West Palm Beach, Village for Change takes in clients who are homeless, who have run out of insurance funds and who never had insurance to begin with.
“If you get someone sober, that’s great,” Andrew said. “But if you don’t help them with anything else that’s happening in their lives, that’s when they relapse.”
It’s this mentality that serves as the driving force behind Community Partners’ model of holistic care and comprehensive community development.
“We work with our clients to secure stable, affordable housing, employment opportunities and parenting classes if they need them,” Andrew said. “95% of our clients are dual-diagnosed with mental health disorders as well as addiction so we work with them in that capacity as well.”
The average stay for a VFC client is five months but treatment is based on client progress and right now, the waitlist for the program is about 15 clients with 2-3 more people added every week due to pressing need.
“Resources are minimal,” Andrew said. “And with a lot of our clients, they really don’t have anywhere else to go.”
State Attorney Dave Aronberg is calling for swift and decisive action to combat the opioid crisis through his Sober Homes Task Force initiative and Andrew believes that two keys to fighting this epidemic are prevention and capital.
“If we get kids before they start with negative behaviors, they’re much less likely to start as adults,” he explained. “And frankly, we need money. We need money for things like beds and capital repairs and salaries. It’s tough competing with for-profits who can afford to pay therapists $40,000 a year more than we can.”
To combat the opioid crisis in Palm Beach County, it will take a village.
And Village for Change is doing everything they can to ensure our community is healthy, safe, stable and drug-free.
If you would like to join Community Partners as we fight the opioid epidemic in Palm Beach County, please let us know.