Florida sees 60% increase in overdose deaths as pandemic fallout fuels opioid crisis

The Seminole County Sheriff said the COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge effect on the opioid crisis.

In 2020, investigators saw a decline, but now they are seeing addicts turn to substance abuse at a greater dependency than ever.

Seminole County had 11 opioid overdose deaths in January. This shocking statistic, the sheriff said, is also happening statewide.

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Jessica Ackerman had just turned 19 when she died of a fentanyl overdose.

Her mother said her daughter had suffered from substance abuse in the past, mostly alcohol, but she was slowly moving up the drug chain.

The person who allegedly gave Ackerman the drug, as well as the dealer that sold the fentanyl, David Hare have both been charged with murder.

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Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma said overdoses and overdose deaths from opioids are on the rise.

“Most jurisdictions across the state of Florida, just in 2020, have really experienced about a 60 percent increase or greater in overdoses. And a 25 to 30% increase in overdose fatalities,” Lemma said.

Lemma said people need to be made aware of the growing opioid problem and there is a need to focus on more than COVID-19.

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The sheriff said deputies in Seminole County will continue to go after drug dealers.

But they also will continue to implement strategies such as medically assisted treatment in the jail, and their hope and healing center is expected to open in March.

Lemma is also working with the state legislature to tighten laws against drug dealers.

See the full report in the video above.

Jeff Levkulich

Jeff Levkulich, WFTV.com

Jeff Levkulich joined the Eyewitness News team as a reporter in June 2015.