Author: Justin Mckibben
Big Pharma has been called out several times in the past couple years for pricing, aggressive marketing and misrepresenting their products. Big Pharma companies have also been called to court a few times for the contribution prescription opioid drugs have made on the opioid epidemic that has damaged the country. The financial and emotional toll of the opioid epidemic has hit hard in several states. South Florida is no exception. Delray Beach has experienced their fair share of strain from the opioid problem, especially when it had been an epicenter of the huge illegal pill mill problem.
Now community leaders in Delray Beach are seeking restitution from the Big Pharma empires, making it the first city in Florida to take this shot at holding Big Pharma accountable.
The Big Suit
That’s why the Delray Beach commission Tuesday decided to sue drug makers for the part they played in the heroin crisis. The city has enlisted the national law firm of Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd from their office based in Boca Raton. So far the suit has set its sights on at least 8 major drug makers and distributors. Two of these have already seen similar cases; Purdue Pharma and McKesson Corp.
Mayor of Delray Beach, Cary Clickstein, has stated:
“With virtually no help from our federal government and little from our state … cities like ours are now frantically searching for answers for our own population,”
“We’re right for turning our eyes to those who are known conspirators in this ongoing atrocity.”
According to the law firm representing Delray Beach, the Big Pharma companies being pursued are responsible for:
- Downplaying the addictive nature of opioids
- Forcing the burden of dealing with the resultant overdoses on state, county and city governments
One of the more impressive features of this case is that the lawsuit won’t cost the city of Delray Beach. The expenses will be covered by Robbins Geller. However, the case supposedly has the potential to garner millions in damages for the parties pressing the matter.
According to a partner of the law firm, who compared the Big Pharma tactics to the now infamous tactics of Big Tobacco,
“They went out and said that opioids are less than 1 percent addictive. That is obviously not true.”
The Mayor and the law firm seem hopeful, while other states have been laying the groundwork for these powerful fights.
States VS Big Pharma
Back in 2015, two counties in California sought damages against 5 Big Pharma companies for the same reasons, and in no time at all the case had been dismissed. However, recently one of these drug company agreed to pay 1.6 million for substance abuse treatment to settle the lawsuit. 4 others remain as defendants in this ongoing battle.
In 2014, Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel took a similar stance, but in 2015 the case was also dismissed. However, the court did state in one of these cases:
“The Purdue entities made misstatements about opioids on their own websites with the intention that Chicago doctors and consumers rely on those misrepresentations are sufficient to state claims against the Purdue entities for violations…”
And while U.S. District Judge Jorge L. Alonso dismissed many of the complaints, the battle over whether these companies deliberately misrepresented the drug benefits and risks continues.
Even recently Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced the state is suing 5 pharmaceutical companies, including:
- Purdue Pharma
- Endo Health Solutions
- Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and subsidiary Cephalon
- Johnson & Johnson and subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals
- Allergan, formerly known as Actavis
There are numerous other suits that have been filed against Big Pharma companies.
- Four counties in New York
- The Cherokee Nationfiled a lawsuit against distributors and pharmacies in tribal court over the opioid epidemic.
- The city of Everett, Washington
While some of these suits may go over better than others, the fact is Big Pharma is under some serious scrutiny.
Delray Beach Making a Case
The Delray Beach lawsuit will seek damages based on the claims that drug makers and distributors violated laws of:
- State consumer protection
- Public nuisance
- Unjust enrichment
According to city officials, every overdose in Delray Beach costs the city about $2,000 in manpower and lifesaving materials. With 690 overdoses last year, that puts the bill around $1,380,000. The only problem is finding a way to prove that pharmaceutical companies can be linked to these overdoses. While many, if not all, of those overdoses were heroin-related, the city may still have grounds to go after opioid drug makers in Big Pharma because these dangerous drugs are considered an underlying problem in the opioid epidemic.
Between 72 and 82 opioid prescriptions are written for every 100 people in Florida, the law firm reports.
While the law firm anticipates other governing bodies will join as plaintiffs, Delray Beach leaders insist they will not wait for other plaintiffs to join the lawsuit. At this point there is not telling how long the lawsuit will last.
There should definitely be accountability for the damage that has been done thanks to the misrepresentation of drug risks and benefits. The misguided and underestimated use of powerful opioids has destroyed countless lives over the years. But beyond holding Big Pharma accountable, there should also be some effort put forth by the state and community officials to promote safe and effective addiction treatment. Innovative and holistic recovery programs can make a huge impact. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Authors: Shernide Delva
Firefighters are on the front lines of combating heroin overdoses. With dozens of overdoses reported each day, the fear is that one day they may not be able to keep up. In Delray Beach, firefighters respond to dozens of overdose calls each day. Even more concerning, these overdoses are from deadly batches of heroin and the opioid overdose antidote Narcan is not working like it used to.
“What we used to administer at .4 milligrams of Narcan, now we’re administering up to 8 and sometimes even more,” said Fire Chief Neal de Jesus, Delray Beach Fire Rescue.
The problem with today’s heroin is that it is laced with stronger more powerful substances like fentanyl. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid 50 times stronger than morphine. This type of strength is deadly. Even with Narcan, fire responders are not able to save them all.
“They’re seeing an amount of deaths equal to what we used to see in a career, they are now seeing in over a several months span,” added Chief de Jesus.
In the midst of saving one overdose patient, there’s often another 911 call coming in. More and more overdoses seen than ever before.
Already this year, Delray Beach Firefighters have administered Narcan 1603 times. There have been 47 heroin overdose deaths in Delray Beach alone. In other parts of Palm Beach County, the epidemic is just as deadly, or worse.
In a two-day profile by WPTV West Palm, reporters were able to witness first responders helping heroin users. One of the more tragic occurrences was when they found a 3-year-old boy’s father unconscious inside of a business’s bathroom. The young boy told the owner his daddy was sleeping. Sadly, even when a life is saved, it does not mean they are not going to continue using.
“There’s been occasions where they’ve responded back to that same patient for another overdose twice and in one case 3 times in the same day, and that’s incredibly frustrating,” said Chief de Jesus.
Chief de Jesus says this is the worst the epidemic has been in his 32 years of fire rescue service. All firefighters in the department must now go through mandatory counseling.
“The signs and symptoms that I’ve seen in firefighters in just becoming callous and hardened to here is another overdose and here is another person who is willingly and voluntarily trying to take their life for a high,”
As a result of the heroin overdose numbers, Chief de Jesus has asked the city to approve 24 hires over the next three years. The hiring process has already begun.
“Next month we will be staffed at three personnel on a rescue truck instead of two in two of our stations and two additional rescues for the following two years until all our rescues are staffed at three,”
The new workforce will help with the growing number of overdoses and phone calls. However, the chief states there are plans to regulate sober homes as well.
With Narcan becoming less efficient and more dangerous heroin batches on the loose, things may only get worse in Palm Beach County. Furthermore, the surgeon general issued a report stating only 1 in 10 people ever get treatment for their addiction. There are now more individuals with substance abuse disorders than people with cancer. These statistics are not okay.
What more can we say? The time is now to get treatment if you are struggling with drug addiction. Your next high could be your last. Do not wait. Call now. We are waiting to get you on the right path to recovery.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
Boynton Beach is beautiful area in South Florida, just north of Delray Beach and south of West Palm in Palm Beach County. The area has been described as “America’s gateway to the Gulf Stream.” Boynton Beach has also been hit by the affected opiate epidemic. Roughly 250 overdoses have occurred this year in Boynton, which is the third largest city in Palm Beach County. While some cities have seen similar spikes in overdoses and drug-related deaths for some time, Boynton Beach experienced a record breaking jump in overdoses overnight this past Tuesday.
The reports of drug overdoses started before sunset. By Wednesday morning police and paramedics had been called to the scene for five separate overdose incidents. For one night, this is the most the city of Boynton Beach has ever seen. As if that weren’t intense enough, all the overdoses occurred in a 12-hour span.
Out of the five, two died and three survived thanks to the life-saving efforts of first responders. This is just another example of how hard the opiate epidemic has hit some cities now more than ever. It is also an indication some of the efforts being made in Palm Beach County are for good reason.
Tracking the Problem
The only available details on the five victims so far include:
- 5:19 p.m. report of a man found in a parked car near Seacrest Boulevard
- 9:44 p.m. a man was found in a car at the 7-11 convenience store
- 10:31 p.m. a 40-year-old man was found dead in his bathroom at the Las Ventanas apartment complex on Federal Highway
- 30 minutes later, a man was found near the Rosemary Scrub Park
- 2 a.m. a man identified as Thomas Varner was found unresponsive at the Homing Inn on Federal Highway — a place police know well for its number of overdoses
Varner, who was the final overdose of the five, received CPR from police officers at the scene. After an attempt to revive Varner by paramedics using life-saving medication Narcan, used to reverse the effects of opiate overdose, he was rushed to Bethesda Hospital East. where doctors tried to save him. Unfortunately, Varner did not survive his overdose. Police Captain Mike Johnson, the shift’s commander during the evening in question, expressed his own concerns with the news, saying:
“We’re in the business of saving lives and when you can’t do that, especially when you have two last night that were fatal, that’s frustrating. But we also recognize that we’re just one prong of this public health crisis.”
Boynton Beach is Not Alone
Boynton Beach is definitely not the only city dealing with increasing drug overdoses. The outbreak of overdose rates and overdose deaths is nationwide. For Palm Beach County, the ‘recovery capitol’ also faces its obstacles with addiction.
- In Lake Worth alone there were 220 overdoses from January to August of this year
- Palm Beach County firefighters responded to 1,246 opioid-related overdoses in that same period
- Delray Beach already had about 394 by late September
Thankfully, Narcan and Naloxone are readily available for first responders, and expansion programs continue to progress across the country. In this 12-hour period four of the victims were taken to Bethesda and were given Narcan.
The fifth man he had already died at the scene.
Not Just Heroin?
Another question is concerning recent reports from several spots in the country where other dangerous drugs are being mixed in with heroin. According to Police Captain Mike Johnson this is- “more likely than not a new batch of heroin hit the city in the last couple of days.” So the question becomes, is there a new batch mixed with something even more toxic set to hit Boynton Beach.
At Las Ventanas, where one victim was found dead, police believe they found the painkiller Fentanyl in the apartment. Fentanyl is an opiate said to be more than 50 times as powerful as heroin. This is not the first time Fentanyl has caused some problems for Palm Beach County. Medical examiner records indicate Fentanyl also played a role in more than 100 overdose deaths in Palm Beach County in 2015. Captain Johnson said,
“It’s an obvious public health crisis. Law enforcement is only one component of addressing that health crisis. The amount of heroin that’s being sold on the street and the amount that’s being cut with Carfentanil or Fentanyl is increasing.”
Due to the rising risks present in some communities Palm Beach County is already organizing events and seminars to properly educate and arm the public with resources for overdose prevention.
One of the most prominent aspects of attacking the addiction issue is the existence of effective, supportive and compassionate drug addiction treatment. One powerful way we can prevent overdose is to make sure those suffering get the quality of care they deserve. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call now.
Author: Justin Mckibben
I’m an alcoholic named Justin.
I am also a writer, a cafe manager and a yoga teacher; a son, a brother and a best friend. I came to Florida from Columbus, Ohio with $5 in my pocket and a bag of dirty clothes. I am now an active member of my community, and this is how I believe we change the perception of who we are- we recover and we talk about it. We stand for the community we believe in and show our gratitude through the work we do.
This past weekend I came across something that gave me a sense of levity through inspiration, but also troubled me with the residual remarks it received. A friend of mine, one whom I had the privilege of attending treatment with that first time several years ago at Palm Partners, had made a bold statement in a group on social media specific to sharing information and stories relevant to the community in Delray Beach, Florida.
The page always has a vast variety of posts from job opportunities, community event announcements, new business listings and even tips on gas prices and dining out.
But every once in a while a story breaks concerning recovery in Delray Beach. Sometimes these stories are raising awareness on the state of national affairs concerning addiction or local initiatives to influence recovery, but other times they come across as nothing more than deliberately discriminating attacks on people some refer to as “rehabbers.” The young lady I know wrote a heartfelt testimony to her experience in recovery after coming to Delray Beach, Florida and shared her grief that so many people scrutinize the recovery community based on the actions of individuals. She admitted to having witnessed the shady side of it all, but challenged people to try and understand those who chose a different way.
She received a lot of empowering and positive feedback, which was so refreshing. Signs of compassion from both sides of the conversation came through. The reason I wanted to write about this today was simply because one of the many comments that I took notice to was:
“..but you are an exception to the rule…”
Now I don’t wish to argue statistics because I doubt there is any way of providing completely accurate, proof-positive numbers. Considering so many choose to remain anonymous and in the grand scheme of things “successful recovery” can be subjective to some. The reason this bothered me, the more I thought about it, has a lot to do with a conversation that stemmed from my friends response.
The Side They Show
This strong woman did not shy away from her convictions. She kept standing up for the recovering addict or alcoholic. She instead answered the aforementioned comment with,
“But I’m not the exception. Unfortunately negativity is much sexier than positivity.”
As much as I hate to say it, truer words could not apply to this context. Simply put- ordinary people just don’t seem to care when an addict or alcoholic finds a solution that leads them to pulling their life together in comparison to when someone goes to rehab, gets out and creates chaos. One comment stated:
“Do the needles jump into their arms? You say they can’t stay sober even if they want to? Come on now. Just take responsibility for your own actions people.”
Here again, we find stigma and the ugly side that seems to overshadow the reality of the disease of addiction. It seems many residents in the Delray area who have no first-hand experience with real recovery still think addicts and alcoholics are suffering from a moral failing or an inability to “take responsibility”- making them more likely to destroy and demoralize the community than they are to make a positive contribution.
Well, in part because the headlines are often generated to grab the reader with claims of controversy and corruption, and because people who don’t know the truth about addiction too often only see it in black and white.
Since crooked client brokers in Delray Beach recently became such a front-page problem there has been an increase in scrutiny on the recovery community. The spotlight was shown on people who were making money off of essentially human-trafficking. From there came very public depictions of ‘exposure’ crusades to take down shady body-snatchers, attempts to unearth unethical halfway housing and heated debates as local businesses incorporated changes in policy which many considered to be attacks directed at “rehabbers” or people in recovery.
The public and even the media has repeatedly gone on a rampage of grouping addicts together as a blemish on the community; so much so that almost every young person with tattoos at a coffee shop was practically labelled on sight as a no-good “rehabber” and subject to whole-sale condemnation.
Why? Just like she said… it’s a ‘sexier story’ to have drama and outrage than it is to support people who have committed to change.
Then as overdose deaths spiked all over the country in association with the opiate epidemic, it made it all the more disturbing to witness it first-hand in any community. But that is crucial to remember too- this is a national problem, and one facing neighborhoods all over Florida, not just Delray.
The Side We Know
We need to change the way our communities perceive recovery for many reasons- the most obvious being that discrimination of any kind is a terrible injustice. We alcoholics and addicts in real recovery- who have a solution and practice with diligence the principles used to shape the lives of freedom and happiness we never expected to have- strive every day to be of service; not just to each other, but to society and humanity as a whole.
True- it is up to us as active members of recovery to accurately represent ourselves to the rest of our community. However, our communities should also be willing to let go of and preconceptions they may have and learn more about us too. We have to meet each other half-way and raise awareness, while working to make real treatment and real solutions more available.
Every day more people come here to find help and every day even more people die because they never get that help. If we want to encourage addicts to be active in their community and to contribute to the lives of others we have to hope for a world willing to accept them for trying.
If every business turns us away, how will we ever help it grow?
If every neighborhood bars our entry, how will we ever build a home we want to take pride in and protect?
These new people coming to Delray Beach are not a threat… they are an opportunity for unity and change! Spiritual growth, new freedom and happiness, relationships and responsibility are possible. People have to be given compassion if they have any chance of change.
What They Don’t Know
This is the kicker… we are already here! We’ve been here all along! Long before me and long after me there will be addicts and alcoholics from all over America relocating to South Florida to be part of a beautiful community of recovery.
In case you didn’t know, we are EVERYWHERE! Not to freak you out and have every “normie” all paranoid, but that is the reality. In the words of one of fictions greatest counter-culture icons, Tyler Durden:
“Look, the people you are after are the people you depend on. We cook your meals, we haul your trash, we connect your calls, we drive your ambulances. We guard you while you sleep.”
For every “normie” that has a chance to read this, I promise you will interact several times today with people who have had to struggle one day at a time to have any stability and sanity in life without drugs and drinking. You probably know them by name. You might have small-talk every day, or you might work side by side with them. That person you respect and admire for their work ethic, determination and perspective might have been like me… dying in a dope-house basement wishing they could believe it was possible to live in a world that would believe in them.
So, people in recovery I challenge to find a way to live proudly in their sobriety. Sure- I respect anonymity and the need for privacy. But for those who are able to speak up, I challenge you to do so. I challenge you to lead by example either way! Yes… we can change how our community views recovery! If we are truly grateful for this community, let us make it a better place for everyone who has a home here.
Thankfully, I was given some help to stop drinking from some amazing people who genuinely cared about my future. Some of most amazing people I’ve ever met are parts of our recovery community in Delray Beach. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135. We want to help. YOU are not alone.
Author: Justin Mckibben
Talk about a power-move… these might just be the kind of game-changers we need to see more of in America.
Even though it is an amazing place for living in recovery, also considered the recovery capitol of the country, South Florida has seen its fair share of trouble in paradise. With an opiate epidemic that has gripped every part of America, even this beautiful community has a population of drug dealers and users, but Florida police are cracking down hard.
As someone who lives here in South Florida as a transplant from the Midwest and an active member of the recovery community it brings a great deal of satisfaction to see the area I now consider my home-away-from-home become a better place.
The last couple months there has been reason to celebrate some of the efforts put forth by law enforcement to make these cities safer. With stories in the news about how bad it gets out there, I figured it would be good to highlight two very recent stories of how police have made massive strides in the right direction when it comes to cutting off influence of the drug dealers in their neighborhoods.
Operation Street Sweeper- Delray City Arrests 28
At the end of April the story broke that police in the city of Delray Beach, Florida had arrested 28 suspected drug dealers in only 10 days as part of an undercover operation. One of the most recent arrests made was that of a man who carried a gun that reports said was called the “cop-killer.” This weapon carried condensed rifle bullets powerful enough to pierce bullet-proof vests, and police are happy to have this dangerous handgun off the streets.
The weapon was traced back to 32 year-old Gerald Petion, who was arrested Sunday evening on charges of:
- Possession and sale of heroin
- Possession of a weapon by a convicted felon
Apparently authorities state that Petion had actually left behind his gun during a police chase two weeks ago.
Delray Beach police began “Operation Street Sweeper” in February with the intention of getting drug dealers in this beautiful South Florida area out of the community. Controlled sales with known drug dealers were repeatedly staged by undercover police officers over the course of months in order to conduct a thorough investigation that lead to these arrests. Police obtained the warrants for these arrests in early April and tracked down many of the dealers, but some are still at-large.
Having arrested over 2 dozen alleged drug dealers in less than 2 weeks time is an impressive move sure to make a heavy impact on the drug traffic in the area. Most of the men and women busted by police were selling heroin, although some sold cocaine and prescription pills.
Operation Dope Death- Boynton Beach Busts 13
Boynton Beach police say an operation they labeled “Operation Dope Death” has helped them dole out a major victory over drug dealers in their community, claiming that this operation lead to:
- Arresting 13 suspected drug dealers
- Confiscated 62 grams of heroin
- 5 grams of cocaine
- 4 grams of marijuana
- $4,300 cash
- 8 cars
- 1 gun
Police say the month-long investigation came after the rising number of calls in response to drug overdoses in the city so far this year, with more than 2/3 cases involving heroin and 5 ending in tragic deaths.
Out of the list of suspected drug dealers involved in the arrest, several were given multiple charges and suspected of dealing in multiple substances that are all controlled and dangerous.
10 have been booked into the Palm Beach County Jail since Monday, and there was even a 17-year-old suspect arrested and charged with the sale of heroin.
With these two substantial operations the police departments in South Florida are working towards dissolving a huge segment of the drug trafficking in the area, and hopefully as the community sees this more resources will come together to make moves toward even more change. It will take time, but it appears possible to level the playing field in more ways than one.
Paradise is nowhere near lost, but it will take work. The same is true for the lives of those impacted by addiction. Even in the darkest times having a willingness to move forward can save lives. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135. We want to help. You are not alone.