New initiatives to fight a record number of overdoses

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CHARLOTTE COUNTY – Charlotte Behavioral Health Care says opioid overdoses are at an all time high in Charlotte County.

That’s why he’s partnering with the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office on several new initiatives to try and tackle the growing problem.

On November 6, Charlotte Behavioral Health Care hosted a Narcan distribution at the Charlotte County Family Services Center. Narcan is a medicine you give to someone who has overdosed on opioids and could save their life.

They plan to distribute the drug for free to anyone who wants it, but the nonprofit is also partnering with the sheriff’s office starting this week on a new program called IRIS.

IRIS stands for Integrated Response to Intervention and Support. We spoke with Kelly Decker, the new supervisor of the IRIS team. She says they send teams to help people facing mental health or drug-related crises.

“Right now it’s made up of a law enforcement assistant and a master’s level clinician, and they respond to mental health calls in the community,” Decker said.

The sheriff’s office says these calls are coming more than ever. So far this year, Charlotte County MPs have responded to 230 overdoses.

“As COVID went through, the overdoses increased,” said Diane Ramseyer, executive director of Drug Free Charlotte County.

Ramseyer helps promote the very first Narcan distribution through Charlotte Behavioral Health Care.

“It is not a bad idea for most households to transport Narcan. You know the thing with Narcan is that there is no side effect in doing it. If you do and the person doesn’t overdose, there’s nothing wrong with it, ”Ramseyer said.

Decker says the IRIS program and the Narcan distribution aren’t going to solve the opioid problem, but she hopes they can at least change the upward trend in overdoses.

“It’s something that’s in our community, it’s not going to go away, and it says we want to provide somebody with a lifesaving device,” Decker said.

The Narcan distribution will take place from 10 a.m. to noon in the lobby of the Charlotte County Family Services Center on November 6.

The Sheriff’s Office also has a program where, if you seek help cleaning yourself up, they’ll take you to Charlotte’s Behavioral Health Care to detox you, and even cover the cost if you can’t afford it.


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