ORLANDO, Fla. — Area leaders from three Central Florida counties are launching a new effort aimed at combating the growing opioid addiction crisis. 

  • Effort brings counties together to combat opioid addiction
  • Focus on prevention, education and treatment
  • More than 5,000 people died in Florida from opioid-related overdoses in 2017
  • RELATED: Central Florida Opioid Addiction Resources

“Project Opioid” is the brainchild of Florida Blue Foundation, and is being led by Change Everything CEO Andrae Bailey.

“The difference about 'Project Opioid' is that it seeks to bring together all of our leaders from our region and state,” Bailey said. “We’re not trying to start something new, we’re trying to bring all of the people working on this and have them work in concert. That’s one way we’re going to see big solutions.”

The Centers for Disease Control estimates more than 5,000 people died in Florida in 2017 from opioid-related overdoses, nearly 14 per day.

This project will focus on work being done in Seminole, Orange and Osceola counties.

Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma is among those that see the problems every day.

“More than 350 people had overdoses, we had 83 deaths last year in Seminole County,” Sheriff Lemma said.

It is a crisis that grips people of all walks of life.

“More than 80 percent of the people who are addicted to the opioid-related drug were at one time legally prescribed the narcotic by someone they trusted,” Sheriff Lemma said. “We look at how this epidemic occurred and we realized there are good, successful people that in many cases have become addicted to one of the most powerful drugs around.”

Sheriff Lemma said the challenge up to this point is that many agencies involved in the process of combating opioid addiction were going at it alone.

“A lot of work has been done in the past, but sometimes the work has been done in silos,” Sheriff Lemma said. “It’s not until we combine all of those worlds together to sit down and collaborate and make a difference.”