The Palm Beach County Heroin Task Force opened its third meeting on Thursday with a suggestion: Why not give drug addicts a bus ticket home?
Rosalind Murray, a crime specialist with the county’s Criminal Justice Commission, said giving addicts a ticket home after they finish treatment might be one solution to the county’s heroin epidemic.
Murray’s idea was quickly shot down. There are simply too many addicts who come to Palm Beach County for treatment for taxpayers to buy one-way tickets home, the group agreed. Alton Taylor, CEO of the Drug Abuse Foundation in Delray Beach, said DAF’s intake data showed their patients have come from 26 states.
Murray said she came up with the idea after reading an article in the Palm Beach Post about a program sponsored by West Palm Beach that provides bus fare to dozens of homeless people who want to return to their hometowns, if there’s someone there to receive them.
“I think we are overwhelmed and don’t have the capacity to handle the problem,” Murray said after the meeting.
Among the idea discussed: Asking private detox facilities to volunteer a bed to an addict who has no insurance. Only three of more than three dozen detox facilities in the area offered to do so.
In Delray Beach, home to most of the county’s treatment centers and sober homes, overdoses continue to tax the resources of first responders. Police have already administered naloxone – the overdose reversal drug – 41 times since the department started carrying the drug in March.
Delray Beach Fire Rescue has responded to more than 700 heroin related calls and used naloxone 500 times since the beginning of the year.
The Heroin Task Force was created by Palm Beach County Fire Rescue and Sheriff’s Office and brings together stakeholders from law enforcement, social service agencies, public health and private treatment providers. The group aims to come up with ways to address the heroin epidemic, including prevention, treatment and legislation.