Florida sheriff: Opioid overdoses and deaths on the rise

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An unprecedented number of people are overdosing from opioids and dying in Seminole County, the county's sheriff said.

Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma said he wants more people to understand how to get help for those who are suffering an overdose.

"I lost my daughter Jessica last year in January," her mother Nancy Ackerman said. "She was barely 19. She was an identical twin. She was a little sister to her older brother. We got a call at 8:30 in the morning saying our daughter is in the hospital and they don’t know if they will be able to save her. By 2 o’clock in the afternoon, she was completely gone."

Jessica Ackerman is just one of 80 people who died from an overdose in Seminole County last year.

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Sheriff Lemma said the numbers aren’t looking any better this year.

"We’re spiking in overdoses not only here in Seminole County but across the state of Florida," he said. "As of yesterday, we had 545 overdoses in Seminole County since January 1."

Since the beginning of this year, there have been 73 overdose deaths. Sheriff Lemma said he believes the pandemic has played a major role.

"What we’ve seen is people turning back to their drug of choice greater than ever before," he said. 

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Lemma explained that dealers are substituting drugs with fentanyl, a drug that he said is 100 times more potent than morphine, and making them look like other drugs with the help of pill presses. For example, a fentanyl-laced drug was found in Jessica Ackerman’s body.

"If the gentleman she was with had called 911 as he was told to do or taken her to the hospital – he lived five minutes from the hospital – she would have at least had a chance," her mother said.

Instead, then 26-year-old Daniel Bachert was charged with murder for failing to get her the help she needed. If he had called 911, Sheriff Lemma said he wouldn’t be facing any charges at all because he would be protected by the Good Samaritan Law. 

Right now, there are 230 people in Seminole County charged with murder because they failed to intervene and attempt to save someone from overdosing.

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"If you kill somebody - If you sell deadly doses of narcotics you’re gonna face felony murder charges," Sheriff Lemma said.

He also said that emergency responders carry Narcan and Naloxone, powerful antidotes that can save a person from dying of an overdose until they get to a hospital.

Sheriff Lemma said he wants more people to know about it and how to use it.

"We don’t want anyone else to go through this," Ackerman said.

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