Fentanyl deaths are increasing in Florida, and more occurred in Palm Beach County last year than anywhere else in the state, according to a new report published by the state’s Medical Examiners Commission.
The drug, which is the latest and most powerful opioid available, has killed:
-278 people in Palm Beach County, down from 285 in 2017.
-271 people in Broward County, up from 244 in 2017.
-141 people in Miami-Dade County, down from 195 in 2017.
From an overall standpoint, opioid deaths have decreased statewide, from 4,280 in 2017 to 3,727 last year.
At the same time, fentanyl deaths are on the rise. The report states that the drug killed 2,348 people in our state last year, a 35 percent increase from the 1,743 people who died from it two years ago.
At the height of the opioid epidemic, thousands of addicted people came to Palm Beach County to recover, lured by insurance providers but often unable to make progress.
Subsequently, coroner’s offices became inundated with overdose cases.
Two years ago, state lawmakers labeled fentanyl as a murder weapon, joining cocaine, heroin and other dangerous narcotics in that category.
In addition, officials have worked to combat the situation since 2016 with the help of lawyers, health officials, police and rehab specialists. While that has reduced the backlog at the medical examiner’s office, overdoses cases remain an issue.
For example, fentanyl was the culprit in 41 percent of accidental overdose deaths in Delray Beach, exceeding the other opiates such as heroin or oxycodone in the capacity to kill, according to the county medical examiner’s analysis.
The city has seen 274 overdoses so far this year, with 37 of them being fatal. In 2018, Delray Beach had 245 overdoses, down from 625 the previous year.