‘We Are Number One’ – EMS Chief Says Escambia Leads Florida In Opioid Overdose Deaths

July 19, 2022

Escambia County leads the state in opioid overdose deaths, according to Escambia County EMS Chief David Torsell.

“We are number one. We get the trophy that nobody else wants. We are the ones recognized for that we don’t want to be recognized for. The state has absolutely recognized us as someone who needs assistance from the state in order to combat this problem.”

“In my 26-year career, I have not seen as much death from overdose in such a short amount of time as I’ve been in Escambia County,” Torsell said. He’s been in Escambia County since June 1, 2021. “A very sad thing.”

The state recently announced Escambia County is one of nine counties to be fully funded for an overdose assistance program that will offer addiction therapy services.

He said during the 2021 calendar year, Escambia County EMS administered 1,391 doses of Narcan, a medication that is given in hopes of stopping an opioid overdose. There were a total of 1,085 overdose calls in 2021.

Just over half way through 2022, Escambia EMS had administered 964 doses of Narcan. As of Monday, EMS had responded to 1,134 overdoses this year, with 42 of those in the last week.

“We’ve already surpassed last year’s overdose numbers in the first half of the year. We are going to double last year’s number,” the EMS chief said. “That is extremely concerning.”

He added that fortunately right now there are not a lot of overdoses among school-aged children. But he wants to use community partners like the Escambia County School District to help educate children about the dangers of the drug use they may see among adults at home.

“Fentanyl has become the bane of our existence. Previously, you go back years, you’re talking about cocaine, marijuana, things like that. But now, everything as we’re seeing has fentanyl in it,” Torsell said.

He said the fentanyl is often mixed with other illicit drugs, and people don’t know they are taking it until it’s too late.

“It’s extremely frustrating to see what we are seeing in our community and just know that it’s kind of become the norm,” he said.

But some days are worse than others.

Escambia EMS has seen 19 overdoses in one day in a six to eight block area. They are literally able to tell when a new batch of drugs arrives in a community or zip code. Those drugs, the EMS director said, are often given away for free.

“They are testing it. They want to see if it’s going to work. They want to see if it to them it’s good product.”

Escambia EMS often deals with overdose “frequent flyers”. For instance, someone will overdose at 6 a.m., be transported by ambulance to the hospital, and be discharged later in the day. Later the same afternoon, they are found to have overdosed again and are transported back to the hospital.

“Wash, rinse, repeat. It’s the same cycle over and over. So, we have to do something different that what we have done previously. We have to be more than reactive, we have to be proactive,” Torsell remarked. “And that’s what we are going to do.”

Torsell’s comments came as he spoke to the Escambia County School Board at the invitation of Kevin Adams, District 1 member and board chair.


17 Responses to “‘We Are Number One’ – EMS Chief Says Escambia Leads Florida In Opioid Overdose Deaths”

  1. Ginger on July 20th, 2022 3:28 pm

    I think anyone dealing it should be charged with Domestic Terrorism and subject to the death penalty…period.

  2. Lindsay Vowell on July 20th, 2022 7:38 am

    I think rehab should be mandatory for anyone who has overdosed. Yes I agree that the addict has to be willing to change and get clean. But being a recovering addict myself, I have never heard an addict say they didn’t want to be clean. I’ve never heard anyone ever say, “when I grow up, I think I want to become a drug addict.” The truth is they want to make different choices. Sometimes forcing them to do what’s best for them is the way to go.

  3. tc on July 20th, 2022 2:37 am

    There are MANY things that contribute to this problem, Soft on crime policies – drug dealers are turned loose over & over with very little punishment. open borders absolutely make it easier for people to get drugs.. Most are too sorry to work a normal job so the drugs are an easy way to make a living.. Thugs are now being made into role models for children & their rebellious culture is being promoted in music, tv, video games etc . people aren’t being held accountable for their actions , its just too easy to make excuses for people anymore. most have no morals & its only getting worse.

  4. Paul on July 19th, 2022 6:41 pm

    @ Debbie

    mixing fentanyl with other drugs, such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and MDMA is a cheaper way to make the drug more potent.

  5. Lynda on July 19th, 2022 5:26 pm

    I’m so sick of reading comments on here always making everything wrong in the country political. The problem is not the President, the Border, the Drug dealers – It’s the people that actually use the drugs. I’m sure if it was my loved one dying of an overdose I would want to blame someone too. The fact is, I’m 57 and my first encounter with someone doing drugs was 50 years ago, at Brent ballpark a young guy walked through the girls park sniffing glue from a rag in his hands. Well, they said glue, could have been anything. I continue to be shocked at what people will do to get high. Creating a drug to bring them back from an overdose was kind of like saying ‘It’s ok, go ahead and try it, if you die they’ll fix you right up’. I wonder what it will take to get some people to value their life more than a “high”?

  6. RaD on July 19th, 2022 2:22 pm

    What is the closest county in Florida to the porous Southwest drug riddled border with a major highway running through it? Escambia. What is being done about closing the border. Nothing. And nothing will be done about it for at least 2.5 more years.

    Can anything truly be done for these people once they become addicted? How successful are drug addiction treatment programs?

    There is an infinite number of drug dealers. You cannot legislate or regulate them out of existence. The supply side will exist as long as there is a demand side so the question is, can demand be minimized and if so, how.

    Authors of a study assert 47% of the US adult population suffers from an addictive disorder. That includes smokers, drug users of all flavors, alcoholics, porn surfers, video gamers, etc. There really isn’t much difference in the behavior, just what the focus of the addiction is.

  7. NavyDave on July 19th, 2022 1:12 pm

    I first fell in love with Pensacola in 1989 when I arrived at (then) NSGA Corry Station for school. Over the years I passed through half a dozen times, sometimes for schools and sometimes as a duty station. Early on, I dreamed of maybe one day settling down here and finally bought a house in 2007. Retiring in 2013, I’m still here but every day I see evidence that this place may no longer be where I want to spend my life. There is not an intersection I drive through that isn’t staked out by panhandlers. Many of them are clearly high, drunk, mentally ill or a combination. Despite what spin some local politicians want to put on it, crime (especially violent crime) has exploded, there is uncollected trash everywhere, the local government seems unable or unwilling to maintain their properties or infrastructure, and no one is doing much of anything about it. In another article it’s mentioned that they want to raise my property taxes AGAIN? In what upside down universe are we expected to pay more for less?

  8. Steve on July 19th, 2022 12:26 pm

    We need more laws so those truly needy of pain meds has to suffer because fentanyl is pouring across the southern border ; little different situations ; more restrictions on my legal doctors and pharmacies are needed ; more dumb laws needed ?

  9. Jeff Drakeson on July 19th, 2022 12:13 pm

    Maybe that 40 billion to Ukraine would help build large regional treatment centers throughout the US for anyone who has overdosed on opiates. Instead of circus impeachment hearings, hearings for this hearings for that, they spend the money and efforts into fixing the drugs coming through the border. Your dear leader doesn’t care…

  10. derek on July 19th, 2022 11:28 am

    The problem is compounded by the fact that people in constant chronic pain can not get any help. The legislature clamped down so hard on pain meds that physicians simply refuse to prescribe medicines to help. Now these people go out looking in other areas for relief. They wind up locating what appears to be prescription meds only to find out they are counterfeit and made up entirely of deadly fentanyl.

  11. TurboR32 on July 19th, 2022 9:59 am

    In the mean time a tax paying person who never took illicit drugs has a heart attack and dies because there are no ambulance crews available.

  12. Niknak50 on July 19th, 2022 9:33 am

    This problem is one of the consequences of having open borders. Fentanyl and every other drug imaginable is coming across our southern border by the ton, literally. The current administration in Washington could care less that people are dying as a result of their open border policy.

  13. george on July 19th, 2022 9:19 am

    Over a thousand overdoses. Can we ask where in the world did you get the drugs? Are all the people getting their drugs from the same person?

  14. Debbie on July 19th, 2022 9:12 am

    I don’t understand why they are putting fentanyl in the drugs. Does anyone have an answer?

  15. Number One For A Reason on July 19th, 2022 8:06 am

    Better living through modern pharmacology

  16. OhYouKnow on July 19th, 2022 7:49 am

    Our laws for dealing drugs need to be made detrimental to the dealer.

    Maybe take possession of everything that is registered to them, like cars, motorcycles, house, land… all of it. Take everything they have on them, cloths jewelry money everything.

    Maybe ban dealers from owning all the above for a period of time.

    As long as they can make more money than the penalties cost them they will continue to deal.

    If a known drug abuser overdoses let them finish the trip they paid for. Give them all a court mandated Do Not Resuscitate

  17. area resident on July 19th, 2022 7:31 am

    So, let’s clean it up. No reason we should see the same people standing on street corners begging for drug money. No reason we should have such overgrowth along our roadways to give people shelter. The honest, hardworking people of this county deserve better!

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