Addiction doesn’t care about the beach, or the ocean or how beautiful the sunsets are in Naples, Florida. Countless individuals and their families are victims of addiction because of substances such as opioids and similar substances, which are filling up the streets and inner-communities of Naples. 

Naples Mayor Teresa Heitmann, with help from founder of Project Opioid, Andrae Bailey, planned a summit to take place on March 8, which served as an educational platform for the leadership in Collier County as they collaborated to create a plan to stop opioid addiction and deaths before they occur. To help with the fight against opioids, a settlement of $28,687.56 was given to the City of Naples by a lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies prescribing opioids.

“Opioid use and the number of overdoses leading to death are an important public health crisis that deserves our attention and action,” Heitmann said. “We need to be involved in transforming our community and saving lives.”

Project Opioid highlights the risk of consuming and abusing the synthesized opioid, fentanyl. The organization works with governments in six of the largest areas in Florida, aiming to prevent and disrupt the usage of these drugs by forming coalitions in the communities. 

“The coalitions facilitate leaders working together to transform communities, confronting the overdose crisis by aligning around one shared goal: to reduce opioid deaths in communities,” a statement from City Hall on Project Opioid said. 

The mayor shared with the publication why she first felt compelled to begin this campaign of drug relief. Initially, a meeting she had with the League of Mayors where a seminar by Project Opioid was being held is what brought interest for this summit. Beyond that, an instance when Sheriff Kevin Rambosk and their team led an investigation that found “enough fentanyl to kill the entire City of Naples.”

“There were enormous arrests, it was jaw dropping,” Heitmann said. 

Following the summit, there was a heightened sense of action in Naples’ leadership. The funds they received from the summit will be used in coordination with Governor Ron Desantis’s CORE Program. CORE is the Coordinated Opioid Recovery plan which aims at creating a network of addiction care and recovery throughout Florida. In up to 12 counties, this program is determined to disrupt the never-ending cycle of addiction in Florida and then around the nation. 

According to the mayor, an action plan is what the city needs to combat the opioid crisis. Continued awareness and a collection of efforts from the government, providers and educators is what will steer Naples away from this epidemic. 

Education on fentanyl is of most importance because preventing it from being created and imported into the United States is nearly impossible. If there is a plan to prevent usage of it, however, the upward trend of overdoses in Florida will begin to fall down.