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Marion County has experienced a dramatic increase in deaths caused by opioids. There were 17 deaths in 2015, 98 deaths in 2016, and an estimated 160 in 2017 (Fifth Circuit Medical Examiner’s Office). May 2017 the Marion County Heroin/Opioid Task Force was created to reduce the number of overdose deaths with the assistance of the following four subcommittees:

Heroin being cooked in a spoon over a tea light candle

Education/Prevention to bring community awareness to the signs and symptoms of opioid use, opioid overdose signs and symptoms,current data on overdose deaths, prevention resources and treatment options.

Healthcare to work with local hospitals and medical society on opioid prescribing protocols.

Law Enforcement to consider alternatives to arrest with the Amnesty Program.

Treatment to increase availability of medication-assisted treatments and detox beds.

Download the Task Force Information Card


WHO IS AT RISK? Anyone who uses opioids for long-term management of chronic illness like cancer or chronic pain is at risk for opioid overdose, as are persons who use heroin. Others at risk include persons who are:

  • Receiving rotating opioid medication regimens (and thus are at risk for incomplete cross tolerance).
  • Discharged from emergency medical care following opioid intoxication or poisoning.
  • At high risk for overdose because of a legitimate medical need for analgesia, coupled with a suspected or confirmed substance use disorder, or non-medical use of prescription or illicit opioids.
  • Completing mandatory opioid detoxification or abstinent for a period of time (and presumably with reduced opioid tolerance and high risk of relapse to opioid use).
  • Recently released from incarceration and who have a history of opioid use disorder (and presumably have reduced opioid tolerance and high risk of relapse to
    opioid use).

Tolerance develops when someone uses an opioid drug regularly, so that their body becomes accustomed to the drug and needs a larger or more frequent dose to continue to experience the same effect.

Loss of tolerance occurs when someone stops taking an opioid after long-term use. When someone loses tolerance and then takes the opioid drug again, they can experience serious adverse effects, including overdose, even if they take an amount that caused them no problem in the past.


  • Repeated irrational explanations for not having money.
  • Frequent illness (flu like symptoms).
  • Secretive behavior (lying, concealing behaviors, unknown whereabouts, etc.).
  • Sudden shifts in mood, attitude, or motivation.
  • Consistently late and appearing agitated and rushed.
  • Sudden poor performance/attendance at work or school.
  • Constant state of perceived crisis.
  • Repeated, brief disappearances during a short period of time (bathroom trips, trips out to the car, etc.).
  • Isolation and avoidance of loved ones.
  • A sudden, unexplained increase in spending.


  • Incoherent speech or thought processes.
  • Presence of pills or syringes.
  • Extreme sleepiness, inability to awaken verbally or upon
    a sternum rub.
  • Breathing problems that can range from slow to shallow breathing in a patient that cannot be awakened.
  • Extremely small “pinpoint” pupils.
  • Slow heartbeat and/or  low blood pressure.
  • Choking sounds or snoring - like gurgling.
  • For lighter skinned people, the skin tone turns bluish purple, for darker skinned people, it turns grayish or ashen.
  • Fingernails or lips turning blue/purplish black.


Survivors of opioid overdose have experienced a life-changing and traumatic event.

They have had to deal with the emotional consequences of overdosing, which can involve embarrassment, guilt, anger, and gratitude, all accompanied by the discomfort of opioid withdrawal. Most need the support of family and friends to take the next steps toward recovery.

While many factors can contribute to opioid overdose, it is almost always an accident.Moreover, the underlying problem that led to opioid use—most often pain or substance use disorder—still exists and continues to require attention.

Moreover, the individual who has experienced an overdose is not the only one who has endured a traumatic event. Family members often feel judged or inadequate because they could not prevent the overdose. It is important for family members to work together to help the overdose survivor obtain the help that he or she needs.

Finding a network of support

As with any disease, it is not a sign of weakness to admit that a person or a family cannot deal with the trauma of overdose without help. It takes real courage to reach out to others for support and to connect with members of the community to get help.

Health care providers, including those who specialize in treating substance use disorders, can provide structured, therapeutic support and feedback. If the survivor’s underlying problem is pain, referral to a pain specialist may be in order. If it is addiction, the patient should be referred to an addiction specialist for assessment and treatment, either by a physician specialising in the treatment of opioid addiction, in a residential treatment program, or in a federally certified Opioid Treatment Program (OTP). In each case, counseling can help the individual manage his or her problems in a healthier way. Choosing the path to recovery can be a dynamic and challenging process, but there are ways to help.

In addition to receiving support from family and friends, overdose survivors can access a variety of community-based organizations and institutions, such as:

  • Health care and behavioral health providers.
  • Peer-to-peer recovery support groups such as Narcotics Anonymous.
  • Faith-based organizations.
  • Educational institutions.
  • Neighborhood groups.
  • Government agencies.
  • Family and community support programs.



Effective February 6, 2018: If a citizen calls the Ocala Police Department (OPD), approaches an officer or agency member, or walks into the OPD lobby asking for assistance in receiving treatment for their addiction, OPD will take custody of any drugs and paraphernalia  and will not file criminal charges.

Through partnerships established with The Centers and Perspectives, the person will be guaranteed treatment and OPD will transport them immediately to begin the process.

Amnesty does not apply if an officer comes in contact with a person in possession of drugs who has not contacted OPD first, asking for help.

For more information on the Amnesty Program contact the Ocala Police Department located at 432 S. Pine Ave.;
Ocala FL 34471; (352) 369-7000.


Marion County Opiate Line

(352) 877-2740

Text or call 24/7 for real time help with  concerns about a friend or loved one and need support in getting them help.

This innovative and unique service will help us create a healthier community in Marion County.


Marion County Heroin Opioid Resource Guide

Marion County Navigator

Marion County Heroin/Opioid Task Force has employed a “Navigator”, to serve individuals suffering from opioid misuse that are being released from Marion County hospital emergency rooms after overdosing.

The emergency room is not the only critical point of potential intervention to reduce the risk of drug-related deaths and to promote addiction recovery. For persons with a history of addiction, the days and weeks immediately following release from a correctional facility, release from an inpatient or residential detoxification/treatment program without medication support, or cessation of medication-assisted treatment, and even transfer from one medication-assisted treatment provider to another all constitute a zone of heightened risk for re-initiation of risky drug use and death.

Download the Navigator Information Card

Free Narcan available

To obtain Free Narcan contact the Centers at (352) 291-5593


Quarterly Lunch & learn

Guest Speaker with a light lunch on a topic of interest in this opioid epidemic.

Lunch & Learn is open to the community, reservations
are made through Eventbrite.com

Please consider getting involved to combat the heroin/opioid epidemic in Marion County by joining the task force or one of the subcommittees. The task force meetings are held quarterly and subcommittee meetings are held monthly. For meeting dates visit mcchildrensalliance.org/blog/events/

Nancy Castillo
Prevention Coordinator
(352) 438 - 5992
(352) 438 - 5994 fx

Marion County Children's Alliance