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SalusCare works with community partners to link patients to detoxification and treatment

The effort is part of the Coordinated Opioid Recovery (CORE) Network in Florida

SalusCare is coordinating with community partners, including Lee County EMS and Family Health Centers, to link overdose patients to treatment, including detoxification and Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT). The program, funded by grants from the state’s Opioid Settlement Agreement, is administered by the Central Florida Behavioral Health Network in partnership with the state’s Department of Health, Department of Children and Families and the Agency for Health Care Administration.

“We are utilizing this program to create a pathway for individuals with substance use disorder to lifesaving information and treatment,” said Jessica Plazewski, vice president and COO of SalusCare, which has 24/7 detoxification services and is a free distribution site for Narcan, an emergency nasal spray used by others to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. “We are working with Lee County EMS to link patients to substance use disorder treatment where appropriate instead of taking them to the emergency room. The goal is to help patients receive treatment and tools necessary to help break the cycle of addiction.”

The statewide CORE program was the first of its kind in the nation and started in 2022 in 12 counties with an announcement from Gov. Ron DeSantis. Lee County was added to the program in 2024 along with 16 other counties. According to state data, EMS in Lee responded to 4,453 overdose calls in 2022.

“Streamlining the process from an EMS encounter to long-term treatment has been shown to improve treatment compliance,” said Benjamin Abes, director of Lee County Public Safety. “We want to provide every option to those who need help in our community, as it’s an opportunity to break the cycle and reduce the impacts of overdoses on our residents and their families.”

Lee County has received $1.5 million in funding so far for the program, which includes increased staffing, training, a vehicle to transport participants to appointments and treatment, take-home fentanyl drug tests and other support items. Florida will receive more than $3.1 billion over 18 years from more than $50 billion in national opioid settlements from pharmaceutical companies and distributors.

The CORE program operates under a connected care model starting with first responders, who help connect overdose patients to specialized substance use disorder care where patients are stabilized and connected with treatment programs. In the sustainable recovery portion of the care model, patients are connected with MAT, mental health support, primary care and social services.

“Since its inception, CORE has helped to facilitate connections with key stakeholders and health care networks across our state to combat overdose and addiction and connect individuals suffering from substance use disorder with life-saving care,” said Department of Children and Families Secretary Shevaun Harris in a press release about the program. “The work that the CORE program has done in its first year is unprecedented, and the Department is so proud to work alongside the Department of Health and other partners in continuing the fight to end the opioid epidemic.”

About SalusCare

SalusCare is a Fort Myers-based, not-for-profit mental health and substance abuse service provider incorporated in 2013 after the merger of Lee Mental Health Center and Southwest Florida Addiction Services (SWFAS) to ultimately improve care for children and adults by utilizing one seamless system of care. “Salus” means health, prosperity and safety, reflecting the focus of the organization. SalusCare has six locations with more than 350 employees throughout Southwest Florida, bringing hope and recovery to nearly 16,000 adults and children each year. All substance abuse programs, and most mental health services, are accredited by CARF International, an independent, nonprofit accreditor of health and human services. SalusCare is funded in part by the Florida Department and Children and Families, Central Florida Behavioral Health Network, Lee Board of County Commissioners and United Way of Lee, Hendry & Glades counties. For information, visit saluscareflorida.org or call 239-275-3222.

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