The numbers are shocking

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Regardless of whether you like or dislike former President Bill Clinton, it’s hard to disagree that when a current or former president visits your city, it’s an historic occasion.

His entire trip here involved the opioid crisis and how it is challenging the healthcare system, families and law enforcement.

Clay County is not immune from this epidemic, which is creating a bit of history on local streets and there are numbers to show it. However, this type of history is not one that anyone will want to chronicle in the history books. The opioid epidemic is creating some eye-opening statistics in Clay County.

During the first seven months of 2017, Clay County Fire and Rescue administered a drug that prevents drug users from overdosing a total of 407 times, compared to the same seven-month period in 2016 where the pace was at 319 doses.

Narcan, which is administered nasally, was developed specifically for patients who show signs and symptoms of opioid overdose. By comparison, in 2016, Narcan was administered a total of 600 times by Clay County emergency medical professionals. However, this year is on track to outpace 2016.

Here’s another shocking statistic. In 2015, there were 66 babies born in Clay County that were exposed to illicit substances(although alcohol exposure is also included in the numbers). However, in 2016, that number jumped to 138, which is a 109.09 percent increase year-over-year. The Agency for Healthcare Administration, which provided the data, has not released 2017 monthly numbers yet, but either way, they hit you in the face at first glance. On a per capita basis, Clay’s number are higher than Duval County’s. The Agency for Healthcare Administration reports that Clay County had 62.53 substance-exposed births per 1,000, while Duval County had 35.96 substance-exposed births per 1,000 in 2016.

Those numbers earn Clay County the No. 10 spot on the list of counties with babies born substance-exposed. Is that really a ranking we want, Clay County?

These numbers are a symptom of something we’ve been writing about at Clay Today now, going on three, if not four, years. Heroin is here, and it is killing our friends, neighbors and loved ones.

And to top it off, fentanyl entered the Clay County streets and alleyways last year as well. Fentanyl is so potent that, experts say, one grain will kill a first-time user. The drug gets even more deadly when mixed with other drugs, such as heroin, but that is happening right here in Clay County.

Last week, officials who got to meet the former president talked about long-term treatment and different programs in the area that are working to get pregnant women off drugs and provide them access to appropriate pre-natal and post-birth care. Here in Clay County, local healthcare officials are aware of the growing epidemic and are collaborating on ways to control the problem and get the word out.

In June, the Healthy Start program at the Florida Department of Health in Clay County formed a work group as part of the larger, regional Substance-exposed Newborn Task Force to study the issue. It meets once a month at Orange Park Medical Center and continues to grow.

Lisa Rogers, program manager of the Healthy Start Coalition who facilitates the Clay County meetings, said the main goal of the work group is prevention and education. More importantly, she said, healthcare professionals are focused on five aspects of the mother and child’s lives – pre-pregnancy, pregnancy, testing for drugs at birth, infancy and adolescence.

“We’re trying to touch everyone at every stage of their lives to stop this epidemic,” Rogers said.

To learn more about the work group, contact Rogers at (904) 529-2809.

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