Florida's first 'Revive Awareness Day' highlights opioid epidemic, life-saving tools

Thursday marked Florida's inaugural "Revive Awareness Day," aimed at bringing attention to the opioid epidemic and promoting the tools available to save lives.

Jacob Schmelzle is on the right track with the help of Orlando Health. After struggling with drug addiction for years, he ended up at the hospital, where the "Opioid Substance Use Disorders Team" intervened.

"It's been so nice to watch his growth, see his success, and continue to support him as much as we can," said Jamie Bridges, Director of the Opioid Use Disorder Team.

Bridges, who also suffered from opioid addiction when she was a police officer, has turned her life around and now uses her experiences to help others. 

"Once I got myself healed from that and doing medicated assisted treatment, going to counseling, and working on a program, I realized that I had a lot to offer people," she said.

"Revive Awareness Day" was established after Governor Ron DeSantis signed "Victoria’s Law" this year. The day honors Victoria Siegel, who died of an overdose at age 18 and aims to recognize opioid misuse and the life-saving power of naloxone, commonly known as Narcan.

"Having the governor proclaim, you know, hey everyone, this is available. You should have it in your home. You should carry it in your purse. You know, you could save somebody's life by having it," said Bridges.

Clinical Pharmacy Specialist Kris Smith explained how Narcan can save lives during an overdose. "It blocks the effect of the opioid in the brain, and it allows people to breathe and to wake up again. This is a very effective medication that saves lives," she said.

Schmelzle, who credits Narcan for being alive today, expressed gratitude. "I definitely got lucky. A lot of things worked out for me to get off the drugs. Not everybody is that lucky," he said.

Orlando Health focuses on providing patients like Jacob with the right medication to prevent opioid substance abuse and connecting them to treatment outside the hospital. 

"Sometimes it just seems so hard, you know? Where do they start? And I think that it becomes a struggle for patients and clients. They don't think they can do it. But I think with what we're able to do here at Orlando Health, we treat the patient with kindness and compassion, meet them where they are, and encourage them," said Bridges.