PALM BAY, Fla. — Multiple organizations across counties in Florida are joining their resources to combat the opioid epidemic.

Following a two-year pilot program in Palm Beach County, state officials stopped by Brevard County on Thursday to promote the expansion of the Coordinated Opioid Recovery (CORE) network in up to 12 additional counties.

What You Need To Know

  • The CORE Network program was first piloted in Palm Beach County, Florida

  • Twelve additional counties are now able to use the interconnected system, including Brevard and Flagler counties

  •  More than 4,000 fatal overdoses were reported in Florida in 2,022 so far

“We are focusing on looking at this as more than being episodic or acute, but it’s a life-long journey and the journey begins with CORE,” said Erica Floyd Thomas, the Assistant Secretary for Substance Abuse and Mental Health at Florida’s Department of Children and Families.

“Being able to enter into recovery in a coordinated manor to allow you to have a holistic approach that helps to optimize and to maximize when you’re ready and you’re contemplating making changes in your lives.”

Thomas was joined at the Florida Department of Health in Brevard County on Thursday alongside Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo. He said he was confident that the program would be an effective method of tackling the opioid epidemic.

“And of course, when you help people in that situation, you also help everyone around them,” Ladapo said.

CORE is designed as a “full-scale treatment approach” to string together the various levels of sustained care needed for someone going through addiction.

Dr. Kenneth Scheppke, who was appointed as Florida’s Deputy Secretary of Health in Dec. 2021, describes addiction as a disease that needs to be treated as such.

“This is not a choice people are making. This is a disease. And now, with advanced neural imaging, we see the changes in the brain that confirms it is in fact a measurable disease in the brain,” Scheppke said. “People who have this disease can no more choose not to have it than people with other things, like high blood pressure and diabetes can choose not to have those things.”

So far in 2022, Florida reported more than 4,000 fatal overdoses. There were also more than 2,000 non-fatal drug overdose visits in Brevard County alone.

Ladapo said in addition to seeing a decrease in deaths, they are monitoring metrics of success, like their overdose, death and monitoring program, which was in place prior to CORE. They will also be tracking things like uptake in use in medication such as naloxone. 

Thomas said the intention is to fund the program long-term. Funding will come from the opioid state grant in addition to settlement dollars from a national opioid lawsuit. Private insurance and Medicaid will also help bolster the program. 

The Florida Department of Health offered up to $1 million per county among the pilot counites using available grant funding.

Those wanting to seek help don’t need to experience an overdose in order to tap into the CORE resources. Circles of Care in Brevard County has a 24/7 hotline that folks can call for information at 321-914-0640, which is attached to the detox unit for both screenings and intakes.

There are also walk-in appointments at their locations at Rockledge and Melbourne. There is also 24/7 access to their detox centers as well.

For more information on CORE in Florida, click here.