The small coastal town of Delray Beach is located on the southeastern coast of Florida, within Palm Beach County. South Florida has long been a hotspot for drug traffic, widespread prescription medication diversion, new synthetic and designer drugs, and illicit drug use.

Delray Beach has been considered the center of a major opioid public health crisis in the United States. In 2016, there were nearly 3,000 opioid overdose deaths in Florida, per the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Overdose rates in Delray Beach have notoriously been high, but numbers are declining due to local efforts by the Delray Beach Police Department and closer regulation of the sober home industry within the community. In 2016, the Delray Beach Police Department responded to 690 drug overdoses, the majority of which involved an opioid drug (90 percent). In 2017, that number dropped to 625.

State and local community efforts in Delray Beach are working to reduce overdoses by addressing drug abuse and addiction in the area.

Drug Abuse and Addiction Treatment Options in Delray Beach

The public healthcare system in Florida is comprehensive and serves all residents who need care. It gives priority to individuals who have financial hardship, may not have insurance, fall into a specialty or priority population, are pregnant, need services not covered by Medicaid, or have a history of injection drug use. It also gives priority to children and adults whose young children are put at risk through substance abuse.

Residents who do not meet the low-income requirements can still obtain public drug abuse treatment services in Florida. Programs may provide care based on a sliding scale, depending on what is affordable for the individual.

people holding hands together

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health (SAMH) Program through the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) mandates a Managing Entity (ME) for public drug abuse treatment services in each region of Florida to oversee local providers and services. For Delray Beach and Palm Beach County residents, this ME is the Southeast Florida Behavioral Health Network (SEFBHN). Services are offered through community-based providers. SEFBHN publishes that treatment for drug abuse can include the following:

  • Detox (both residential and outpatient)
  • Assessment
  • Counseling
  • Case management
  • Outpatient and inpatient treatment programs
  • Transitional housing
  • Life skills training
  • Parenting skills
  • Group and individual counseling
  • Recovery and peer support

To find a provider through SEFBHN, residents can use the interactive provider map.

Private and fee-for-service providers in Delray Beach offer many options for drug abuse treatment. The Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator that the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) hosts is a web-based tool that can be used to find local services based on type and location. For immediate help and access to treatment resources and referral services, residents of Palm Beach County and Delray Beach can use 2-1-1 Palm Beach.

Florida residents can obtain help for family members who present a danger to themselves or others because of their substance use, if they are unable or unwilling to seek treatment on their own. The Marchman Act helps Florida families to get a loved one into treatment through involuntary commitment.

long bridge going into the sea

Nonprofit and community-based agencies and organizations support drug abuse treatment, prevention efforts, and recovery support in Delray Beach and Palm Beach County.

  • Palm Beach Substance Awareness Coalition (PBSAC): This group provides preventative measures and local resources. They also run several local task forces aimed at drug abuse issues in the area, such as the Opioid Prevention Task Force aimed at public education on the perils of opioid drugs; the Emerging Issues Task Force targeting new drugs in the area; the Underage Drinking Task Force striving to minimize alcohol consumption by Palm Beach County teens and young adults under the legal drinking age of 21; and the 85 by 18 initiative hoping to reduce underage drinking. They also host recovery support services through the Recovery Awareness Partnership.
  • United Way of Palm Beach County: This organization supports local Palm Beach County residents and offers information on local options.
  • Florida Alcohol & Drug Abuse Association (FADAA): This group strives to enhance treatment services in Florida, reduce the stigma surrounding addiction, and influence local policies.
  • Drug Abuse Foundation (DAF): DAF hosts local intervention, prevention, and educational programs for residents of Palm Beach County. They also provide treatment services, information, and local resources.
  • Palm Beach County Intergroup of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA): This group offers peer and recovery support services through a 12-step program and local meetings.
  • Florida Association of Recovery Residences (FARR): This organization provides information on local transitional support services, sober living homes, and recovery communities.

Palm Coast Area Narcotics Anonymous (NA): This 12-step program provides local peer support and in-person meetings.

Drug Use in Delray Beach

According to the 2017 Annual Report made by PBSAC, alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, heroin, prescription opioids like oxycodone, novel synthetic opioids like Pink or U-47700, synthetic cannabinoids, illicit fentanyl, and benzodiazepines are common drugs of abuse in Palm Beach County. Alcohol was involved in close to 50 percent of all drug overdose deaths in Palm Beach County in 2016, and it was also the most commonly cited primary drug of abuse in nearly a third of all drug abuse treatment admissions in the county. For teens, the primary drug of abuse seems to be marijuana, as more than three-quarters of all drug abuse treatment admissions by youth under the age of 18 cited marijuana as their main drug of abuse in 2016.

Synthetic marijuana (cannabinoids) continues to evolve in South Florida. While rates of fake weed abuse are declining, novel substances continue to pop up. The same is true for other man-made, or synthetic drugs, in the area. South Florida is notorious for being one of the first places that these novel psychoactive substances tend to appear. While drugs like flakka and synthetic cathinones seem to be less common today than they were a few years ago, other new substances are still appearing.

Recently, the rise of synthetic opioids is a serious cause for concern. Illicit fentanyl is driving up opioid overdose numbers in Palm Beach County. Fentanyl is much more potent than traditional opioids. Since it can be made in a lab, it is often cheaper to obtain than other opiates like heroin. For this reason, fentanyl and the even more potent carfentanil are being laced into drugs like heroin, cocaine, and counterfeit prescription drugs in order to stretch the product. This can be extremely dangerous to an unsuspecting user who is unaware that the drug they are taking contains the much more powerful opioid than they were expecting, often leading to tragic overdose.

NIDA reports that Florida overdose fatality rates are higher than the national average. Approximately 13.3 people per 100,000 population died from an opioid overdose on average nationally in 2016, and the Florida opioid overdose rate for the same year was 14.4 per 100,000 residents. The biggest spike in overdose deaths came from synthetic opioids, as 1,566 people died from an overdose involving a synthetic opioid in 2016 compared to 200 deaths in 2013.

Reversing the Tide of Delray Beach Opioid Abuse

In 2016, paramedics in Delray Beach responded to 748 overdose calls, 65 of which ended in deaths. There were close to 5,000 overdose-related calls in Palm Beach County that year.

Delray Beach has been dubbed the recovery and “relapse capital” of the U.S. People have been flocking down to sunny southern Florida to addiction treatment centers. The Miami Herald publishes that in 2014, around three-quarters of people receiving addiction treatment in a private Florida facility were from out of state.

Opioid addiction relapse rates are as high as 80 percent. Many of these people were being sent back out into the community without getting proper care. Sober living homes in the area were unregulated and many were even fraudulent in their care, attempting to bilk insurance companies for money without providing residents with the necessary tools to manage opioid addiction and minimize relapse.

The Sober Home Task Force set up by State Attorney Dave Aronberg in Palm Beach County has facilitated the arrest of dozens of people involved in patient brokering. Aronberg received an award in June 2018 for his part in helping to reduce insurance fraud through the task force, the Palm Beach Post reports. This initiative is taking aim at the sober living community to ensure that individuals receiving transitional services in the area are getting the help they need to foster a long recovery.

woman looking off into the sunset

The Delray Beach Police Department became the first to hire a service population advocate. This person helps individuals get the help they need after suffering an overdose, helping to bridge the gap between law enforcement interaction and treatment services.

Additional measures combating opioid abuse include the Opioid State Targeted Response Project. This statewide program aims to improve prevention measures, expand treatment resources, and enhance crisis intervention services to Florida residents following Governor Rick Scott’s issuance of a statewide public health emergency surrounding the opioid epidemic in Florida.

Efforts to better track potentially dangerous prescription medications include the Electronic-Florida Online Reporting of Controlled Substances Evaluation Program (E-FORCSE), which is Florida’s prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP), and the Controlled Substances Bill, which places limits on opioid prescriptions and mandates continuing education for providers dispensing them. PBSAC also provides information on local pill drop locations where residents can dispose of unused medications safely.

Local training and information on how to obtain the lifesaving drug naloxone through Florida’s standing order are provided through the Florida DCF. Residents of Florida are able to obtain the opioid antagonist drug without a prescription from a local pharmacy. A Good Samaritan law offers protection from drug-related and criminal charges when reporting an overdose or attempting to reverse one.

Local prevention, treatment, and recovery support programs are helping to make headway against the opioid public health crisis in Delray Beach.

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