Project Opioid partners with Florida Blue Foundation to build statewide collaboration to address opioid crisis

February 22, 2021 10:39 AM EST

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ORLANDO, Fla., Feb. 22, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Project Opioid, a Central Florida based initiative, announced this week it would be expanding its business- and faith-leader directed collaborative on the opioid overdose crisis into the five largest markets in Florida.

In partnership with Florida Blue and the Florida Blue Foundation, Project Opioid will coordinate with the most established regional business development boards to create collaboratives in Jacksonville, Tampa Bay, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami.  

These Regional Super Advocates will spearhead the Project Opioid program in their communities, and will be responsible for recruiting business, faith and philanthropic leaders to the Project Opioid initiative. They will be instrumental in driving the mission of Project Opioid to reduce opioid overdoses and overdose deaths by 50% in the next 36 months.  

The designated Regional Super Advocates include:

The Jax Chamber, Tampa Bay Partnership, Miami-Dade Beacon Council, Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance and the Business Development Board of Palm Beach Foundations are led by some of Florida's top business champions, and will look to find solutions to the increasing overdose crisis around the state and identify specific, actionable steps to create a major impact on this epidemic in 2021.

This expansion comes as new numbers show the opioid crisis having entered its new most deadly phase in 2020. "The COVID Overdose Crisis," has caused a dramatic increase in the number of overdose deaths seen across the country. In Florida, it is projected that at least 55 people a day died from a drug overdose in 2020, a projected 59% increase in drug overdoses from 2019. Younger generations have been hit particularly hard with 53% of all drug overdoses in the state occurring in individuals between the ages of 25 and 44, even though this segment only represents 25% of the population statewide.

"The number of overdose deaths we are seeing across the state of Florida is unprecedented," said Andrae Bailey, founder and CEO of Project Opioid. "The mental health anguish from COVID-19 has caused Floridians, predominantly Millennials, to turn to drugs to cope. These drugs, particularly when they contain fentanyl, are killing our young residents in record numbers and it is time for community leaders to step up and help solve this crisis."

"There has never been a more important time in our community for the leaders to come together to address this issue," said Sheriff Dennis Lemma, Sheriff of Seminole County and Project Opioid Co-Chair. "The citizens of this state deserve access to treatment and care, not incarceration."

The Florida Blue Foundation has awarded a grant for Project Opioid to expand the program and bring support to Jacksonville, South Florida and Tampa Bay. With the latest community investment, Florida Blue's financial contribution to Project Opioid and Regional Super Advocates to date is $1.7 million.

"The opioid crisis is not something one organization can solve on its own – it takes a team of dedicated individuals and organizations committed to the cause," said Dr. Nick Dewan, vice president of Behavioral Health at Florida Blue and chair of Florida Blue's Opioid Task Force. "We all have a responsibility to help those in the communities we serve, and that is why Florida Blue is proud to be part of the initiative and we look forward to our ongoing collaboration with Project Opioid and the Regional Super Advocates." 

In 2021, Project Opioid seeks to mobilize new resources, drive policy changes and reduce the stigma and overdoses in our state. The collaborative will look to bring leaders together to find and implement key solutions to confront the overdose crisis in each of the five key regions. Expanding access to Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT), an FDA approved treatment for opioid use disorder, and access to mental health services by promoting policy changes are at the forefront of this initiative. Through Project Opioids new partnerships, it hopes to align cross-sector leaders to form high-impact strategies that will transform and save the greatest number of lives across Florida this year.

 

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SOURCE Florida Blue



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