Heroin: It’s On The Locals


America is experiencing a horrendous opiate addiction crisis.

But aside from a few brief mentions at the conventions, the presidential race is almost devoid of any discussion of the issue. And this week’s debate mentioned nothing about the crisis.

Meanwhile, cities across the country are being stressed to the max by heroin and opiate addiction. Delray Beach is one of those cities.

And aside from municipal budgets being strained, there’s the human side of the issue, with lives being ruined and or lost and front line personnel in law enforcement, EMS and health professions feeling the daily pressure as they try desperately to save people and make an impact.

Before we can “Make America Great Again” or be “Better Together” we had better take a long, hard look at what’s happening on the streets of our cities and towns. It is clear that solutions are not coming from Washington—which blew a promised deadline for a joint letter from HUD and the Justice Department—the political class seems more focused on fighting than fixing. So any solutions or even chance of making things better will have to come from local government. Addiction is a helluva problem and it’s getting worse.

You don’t have to look much further than Delray Beach, which continues to report record numbers of overdoses and heroin related calls for service.

As of two weeks ago, there have been over 1,000 doses of Narcan (a drug that reverses overdoses) administered by our Fire Department. The Police Department has given out another 83 doses of the costly drug. Grants for Narcan have dried up and prices are soaring. In fact, there is a price-gouging investigation that has been launched, according to officials.

The Delray PD has responded to 360 drug related calls as of a few weeks ago, more than West Palm Beach, which is a bigger city (290 calls). You can bet those numbers have gone up.

Boca is not immune either, no city is. In the first 7 months of 2016, Boca Fire administered 77 doses of Narcan.

So folks, we have a problem.

We are not alone.

We are not unique.

But this is a huge issue and according to city officials tasked with following the crisis, the number of homes being used to house people with addictions are growing. Sadly, while there are many excellent providers doing great and much needed work, there is a virtual cottage industry of bad operators in our community who are exploiting people for profits and doing far more harm than good.

Code Enforcement, our police department and the Fire Department are on the case—but the problem is complex, growing and multi-layered. We are nowhere near turning the tide.

Fortunately, there are some bright spots.

Our Police Department, led by Chief Jeff Goldman, is aggressively working on the issue from a holistic perspective. Aside from deploying investigative and enforcement resources, Chief Goldman is hiring a licensed clinical social worker to help the department understand and work more effectively with an increasingly challenging population; those in the throes of addiction. He is also closing in on a memorandum of understanding between the department and FAU, which would give the department an intern that would work on these issues.

Another bright spot is the work of the Delray Drug Task Force under the leadership of Suzanne Spencer.

The Task Force has become a valuable clearinghouse for information and collaboration. At the table: local law enforcement, fire officials, local prosecutors, representatives from Congresswoman Lois Frankel’s office, responsible providers and business leaders ranging from Plastridge Insurance to Ocean Properties. It’s impressive.

On the pro-active side of the challenge, Spencer is taking the message of sobriety into local schools. The effort, called “Living Skills in the Schools” should touch 18,000-20,000 children this year.

Another bright spot is the passionate work being done by retired police Lt. Marc Woods, who now works for the city on enforcement issues relating to housing. A bright and resourceful guy, Mr. Woods brings a ton of experience to the issue.

The long-awaited joint letter from the Justice Department and HUD is also imminent, but sadly past its deadline which is typical of Washington dysfunction these days.

Speaking of dysfunction, while Congress “approved” a plan to fight heroin recently it has failed to fund the effort—and you wonder why people are angry at the establishment politicians in D.C. Ugh…

Meanwhile, while prescriptions for opiates have quadrupled nationally in the past four years, we learn that manufacturers of the drugs have spent nearly $900 million on lobbying efforts to keep the pills pumping.



Million. Dollars.


So clearly, this will be on the locals, unless of course Washington wakes up, which isn’t likely.

We can tell you one thing for sure; nobody on the front lines can afford to wait. They are knee deep in dealing with the crisis.

It would sure be nice if they had a little help.


  1. Patsy Westall says

    Great article Jeff and you are so right – the conversation needs to continue and focus and recognize the hard work of the positives that are here in Delray – ie The Crossroads Club which operates 7 days a week with 12 step programs for any addiction.

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