New opioid recovery pilot program coming to 12 Florida counties


Nicole Pasia


The Florida Department of Health, the Florida Department of Children and Families, and the Agency for Health Care Administration are working to launch a network-based opioid recovery pilot program in up to 12 counties, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on Aug. 4th. 


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Starting this month, Coordinated Opioid Recovery (CORE) will include community-based resources such as peer recovery specialists, along with emergency sources, to respond to rising opioid overdoses in Florida. 

In 2021, there were over 8,000 reported overdose deaths in Florida, according to the announcement. Fentanyl-related overdose deaths have increased by 790% since 2015. Nearly 2,000 fatal overdoses have occured in Florida this year, the announcement continued. 

In the event of an overdose, CORE will dispatch an emergency response team that will transport the patient to a “special subject matter hospital,” similar to a trauma center. Once the patient is stabilized, the team will work to begin medication assisted treatment and transfer the patient to a sustained multi-specialty medical group. 

The program will then focus on a “sustainable clinical pathway and system of care.” According to the announcement, this would include treatment for coexisting medical and mental health conditions, dental care, and a psychiatric evaluation. The program also assures patients will receive social support services that address housing, food insecurity, and employment. 

“Substance use disorder is a chronic, life-threatening, and relapsing disease that needs to be treated like all other chronic diseases with medical and subspecialty expertise,” Florida Department of Health Deputy Secretary for Health Dr. Kenneth Scheppke said in a statement. “Launching CORE will create a sustained system of care to manage the complex medical needs of these patients and bring lasting recovery and good health.”

DeSantis also announced the appointment of the first Statewide Director of Opioid Recovery, Dr. Courtney Phillips. Phillips, an adult psychologist and current Director of Behavioral Health for the Health Care District of Palm Beach County, will offer clinical consultations for those seeking recovery for substance abuse. 

“Our state and communities did not choose this epidemic, but today we choose to treat this medical and psychiatric illness like any other, with access, evidence based care, and lifelong comprehensive treatment,” Phillips said in a statement.

The CORE pilot has already been in place in Palm Beach County for almost 2 years, the announcement said. The program will expand to Brevard, Clay, Duval, Escambia, Gulf, Marion, Pasco, and Volusia counties in its first phase. Its second phase will include Citrus, Duval, Flagler, Manatee, and Pinellas counties.