Florida Attorney General announces fight against opioid abuse in Tampa Bay

Last year, there were over 1,300 overdose deaths specifically in the Bay Area. The statistics bring to light the local intensity of the opioid epidemic, a reality that far too many families are forced to face.

"I lost my brother two years ago to a carfentanil overdose," said Ellen Snelling with the Hillsborough County Anti-drug Alliance.

Today, and every day, 17 people throughout Florida will die from overdoses of opioids or heroin, a staggering statistic that Attorney General Ashley Moody says needs to change.

"In order to make meaningful strides against this opioid epidemic, we must not let up on our efforts against going after aggressively those who are trafficking in opioids," said Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody.

In an effort to tackle the crisis head-on, local, state and federal officials are introducing a strategy calling 'DEA 360.'

"DEA 360 attacks the drug epidemic from every angle, all sides. We go after the bad guys, and we educate the good guys," said Mike Furgason with the DEA Tampa District.

They're calling it a three-pronged approach combining law enforcement, diversion control, and community outreach to address the root issues. 

"A law enforcement solution alone is inefficient, it is instead an integral part of a multi-prong strategy that has to be implemented in unison in order to be as effective as possible," said Cpt. Mike Jenkins with the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.

While this won't be an overnight fix, the future seems promising.

"I believe those numbers will go down with this multi-faceted approach. We cannot arrest our way out of this, it has to be fully engaged from all community members," said Mark Brutnell, with FDLE.

It's a new game plan to tackle a problem that kills more than 500 Floridians every month.

DEA 360 has already been successfully implemented in communities across the United States.

Locally, the DEA 360 program will be put in place in 10 counties surrounding the Tampa Bay Area including Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Manatee, Desoto, Sarasota, Polk, Hernando, Citrus and Hardee. It's a new game plan to tackle a problem that kills more than 500 Floridians every month.