West Palm Beach

West Palm Beach is a thriving community in Palm Beach County, Florida. While Palm Beach County is home to sweeping beaches and rich culture, illicit drugs have been making their way up across the southern border of the United States into this region.

Drug Abuse in Palm Beach County

Colombian cocaine is making a comeback in South Florida after the drug wars of the 1980s. Overdose deaths involving cocaine peaked in 2007 and are now rising again as cocaine production reaches record heights. In Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, and Broward counties, there were 614 cocaine-related overdose deaths in 2015. Fatalities involving cocaine were often the result of more than one drug.

Opioid drugs are a major concern in South Florida. The Palm Beach County Substance Awareness Coalition (PBCSAC) publishes that illicit fentanyl, a synthetic opioid drug that is being manufactured illegally and often laced into heroin or in counterfeit prescription pills, is a major factor in the surge of overdose deaths involving opioids in Palm Beach County. There were 324 fentanyl-involved overdose deaths in Palm Beach County in 2016, up from only 80 fatalities in 2014.

Heroin is a major cause for concern in the county as well. There were more recorded overdose deaths involving heroin in Palm Beach County in the first six months of 2016 than in any other county in the entire state of Florida.

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South Florida is also known for novel psychoactive substances. As abuse of flakka and synthetic cathinones, or bath salts, seems to be on the outs, abuse and deaths involving new synthetic opioids like U-47700 are on the upswing in Palm Beach County.

After a decline between 2011 and 2013, PBCSAC reports that fatalities involving prescription opioid drugs have also made a comeback, especially related to oxycodone misuse. Attempts to curb prescription drug diversion and misuse aided in the reduction of overdose deaths, but deaths are once again starting to pile up.

Fatalities related to the misuse of benzodiazepine medications are following a similar trend after a drop between 2011 and 2013, and an increase again in 2016. Benzos are regularly mixed into “drug cocktails” or combined with other drugs when abused.

In Palm Beach County, alcohol is considered the No. 1 drug of abuse. It was the No. 1 cited primary substance of abuse in nearly a third of all addiction treatment admissions in 2016, and it was involved in half of all overdose deaths. For teens age 18 and younger, marijuana was the primary drug of abuse for close to 80 percent of all addiction treatment admissions in Palm Beach County in 2016.

Drug abuse can be potentially life-threatening, and it can have far-reaching effects on families and communities. Federal, state, county, and local agencies are all working together to minimize drug abuse and its ramifications in the city of West Palm Beach.

Palm Beach County’s Opioid Crisis: Government and Community Response

To stem the tide and get a handle on opioid overdose deaths within Florida, Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency and signed an executiveorder addressing the issue. In that same vein, the Opioid State Targeted Response Project aims to improve treatment models in Florida and also expand prevention and crisis intervention services to better support those in recovery.

Federal grant programs, such as the Florida Partnership for Success (PFS), provide money on a local level in Palm Beach County to go toward drug abuse prevention measures and outreach opportunities.

Prevention programs in local schools aim to increase the awareness of students regarding the dangers of drug abuse. They are funded through grants like the Prevention Partnership Grant (PPG) in Florida.

Several laws and pieces of legislature also address opioid abuse concerns on a statewide level.

  • The Good Samaritan Act offers immunity from drug-related charges to individuals attempting to reverse an overdose as well as those reporting a potential overdose.
  • Electronic-Florida Online Reporting of Controlled Substances Evaluation Program (E-FORCSE) is Florida’s prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP). It helps to track prescribing patterns and the prescriptions of controlled substances to reduce diversion and recognize potential misuse.
  • The Controlled Substances Bill expands the reach of E-FORCSE and requires prescriber education on prescription dispensing of controlled substances. It also limits the scope and breadth of opioid prescriptions.
  • A standing order for naloxone provides access to the opioid antagonist drug to all Florida residents who need it without a prescription.

The Florida Alcohol & Drug Abuse Association (FADAA) enforces policies surrounding drug abuse-related issues. Locally, the Palm Beach Substance Awareness Coalition runs several task forces and programs aimed at reducing substance abuse, raising awareness on the issues, and expanding resources for treatment and recovery throughout Palm Beach County.

Within Palm Beach County, there are also several pill drop locations where residents can dispose of medications. This helps to make sure they do not fall into the wrong hands and end up misused.

Services and Options for Treatment in West Palm Beach

The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF), through the statewide authority the Substance Abuse and Mental Health (SAMH) Program, mandates a regional managing entity (ME) to oversee a network of local community-based providers throughout the state. For the city of West Palm Beach, this ME is the Southeast Florida Behavioral Health Network (SEFBHN). 

Public drug abuse and addiction treatment services through DCF and MEs include the following:

  • Detox
  • Crisis and intervention services
  • Outreach programs and prevention measures
  • Assessments
  • Medical treatment
  • Rehabilitation through both inpatient and outpatient treatment programs, offering group and individual therapies and counseling services
  • Case management
  • Medication management
  • Transitional housing and services
  • Aftercare and recovery support programs and services

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Services are provided to residents of West Palm Beach regardless of financial situation; those with means may pay for services on a sliding scale. Per the Combined Behavioral Health Assessment and Plan, priority treatment is given to children, families with children at risk, residents battling addiction with a history of IV (intravenous or injection) drug use, individuals within a priority or targeted population, residents below designated federal poverty levels, and those requiring services not covered by Medicaid. If a Florida resident can’t seek treatment due to drug abuse and addiction, family members and loved ones can gain treatment for them through the Marchman Act, which can involuntarily commit those who may be a danger to themselves or others.

Public treatment programs are often first-come, first-served and have a limited amount of beds. Private treatment providers can help to bridge the gap; they offer many services and are often more readily available.

Resources in West Palm Beach

There is a range of crisis intervention, treatment, and recovery support organizations in the local West Palm Beach area.

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