CLEARWATER, Fla. — A new life-saving program was announced on National Fentanyl Awareness Day set to help supply first responders with naloxone, an opioid overdose reversal medicine, throughout the state of Florida.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody was joined by law enforcement and firefighters Tuesday morning at the Clearwater Police Department to talk about the new "Helping Heroes" program.
"We are going to make sure that [naloxone] is not only provided in increased amounts but that it is done at Walmart locations throughout our state," Moody said.
The program stems from Florida’s $215 million opioid settlement reached with Walmart in August.
Using its size and distribution network, the retailer will stock and store naloxone, commonly called Narcan, at several of its stores.
Through this partnership with Walmart over the next 10 years, registered agencies and first responders can go to participating locations in Florida and get the medicine after showing proper identification.
Under the initiative, specific groups such as firefighters, school resource officers, EMTs and other emergency personnel will be able to pick up the life-saving medication.
First responder agencies that are interested in the program and want to register can go to doseofreality.com to find a list of Walmart locations participating.
"It's important to me as attorney general that our first responders know that...all of Florida has their backs," Moody said. "Doing that means we're giving them the tools and the resources to do their jobs, and it's my hope that this new program Helping Heroes will do just that."
"Every life that they save helps us maintain a strong and safe state."
According to the attorney general, numbers in just the Sunshine State alone record 23 deaths daily to opioid-related overdoses – with most of them involving fentanyl.
And with the constant flow of opioids into the state, Moody said the jobs of first responders may get more challenging.
"It is so important that we recognize not only this new program 'Helping Heroes' that we're increasing the amount of naloxone available in our state, we're increasing the locations in which it will be available but we also highlight the heroic efforts of those standing behind me that are saving lives every day," Moody said.
Clearwater Police Chief Daniel Slaughter explained the department responded to 294 overdoses so far this year — a 14 percent increase from the previous year. They also investigated 58 fatal overdoes, which is a 7-percent increase from the previous year.
"I share the statistics because I think that the numbers are staggering, but I don't like using the statistics because I think it becomes way too easy to forget that data point is a real person," Slaughter said. “To beat addiction, they have to survive it.
“And that is why this steady stream of supply of naloxone is critical in helping us in law enforcement and emergency medical services do.”
The latest national data shows more than 100,000 Americans died over the span of a year because of an overdose. And the number is only skyrocketing, Moody explained.
Deaths stemming from fentanyl nearly tripled nationwide over the last five years.
"We know fentanyl is the No. 1 killer of Americans ages 18 to 45, and we are finding this deadly synthetic in other drugs at rapid rates," the attorney general said.
Corporal Ashley Hinkebein described how administering Narcan recently help her save a life.
“And I think if I had not had that tool available to me, that could’ve made the difference between this man surviving,” Hinkebein said. “I just wanted to share that boots-on-the-ground story with you guys because I think this new program is really going to help us.”
Anyone struggling with addiction can go to treatmentatlas.org and be guided to where people can get help.
Watch the full announcement down below.