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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020 1 year ago

Opioid epidemic documentary to premiere in Winter Garden

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A new documentary on the opioid epidemic in Orange County titled “It Impacts Us All” will premiere at the Garden Theatre Feb. 3.
by: Tim Freed Managing Editor

A new documentary premiering in Winter Garden will shed light on a nationwide epidemic through the lens of Orange County.

On Monday, Feb. 3 at the Garden Theatre in downtown Winter Garden, local residents will have a chance to see the premiere of “It Impacts Us All” — a documentary about the ongoing opioid epidemic.

It’s a film created in partnership between The Public Good Projects and the West Orange Healthcare District that explores the issue from the perspective of local law enforcement, physicians and hospitals, and patients and their families.

The premiere event also will include a hands-on demonstration by Coalition for a Drug-Free Community Director Tom Hall on how to administer Narcan (naloxone) — a nasal spray that counteracts the life-threatening effects of an opioid overdose. Local experts also will talk about the community impacts of opioid misuse during a panel discussion.

Danny Banks, Orange County’s director of public safety, said county government played a significant part in producing the film as it’s been battling the opioid epidemic for many years.

“I think the title of the documentary is perhaps the most fitting of any title we could come up with,” Banks said. “It impacts us all, and that truly is what we see, particularly in Orange County. The opioid epidemic has impacted every race, every religion, every socioeconomic background — from rich to poor, white to black, anyone. That epidemic has hit us all.”

The current opioid epidemic in Orange County can be traced back to rampant pill mills in the mid-2000s, Banks said. People traveled to Central Florida to get prescription pills with minimal doctor visits, but the state eventually passed laws and implemented a prescription drug database to help curtail that. 

That didn’t get rid of the opioid addiction itself though, Banks said, as many addicts transitioned to heroin, fentanyl and other opioid-based drugs.

Orange County has been taking steps to combat the epidemic, Banks said. A couple years ago, it acquired a $2 million grant to pay for naloxone for local police officers to carry on their person. Many times it’s law enforcement officers who find overdose victims first, he said, so they have an opportunity to save a life. The county has made strides in saving the lives of overdose victims, but now it needs to focus more on treatment options and helping victims break the chains of addiction, Banks said.

“That’s still an area we’re lacking nationally, it’s an area we’re lacking in the state and we’re still lacking in Orange County,” he said. “That’s an aggressive avenue we’re going to be pursuing in the future.”

Anyone who misses the premiere Feb. 3 still will have an opportunity to see the film — the documentary and screening guides will be made available to schools, churches, community groups and families.

The public also is invited to check the website at itimpactsusall.com for monthly videos starting in February. The series, titled “Our Crisis: Stories from the Front Lines of Orange County’s Opioid Crisis,” will take viewers deeper into the lives of people in Orange County fighting for the lives of those affected by the opioid crisis.

Tim Freed was the managing editor for the West Orange Times & Observer and the Southwest Orange Observer. He previously spent six years covering the Winter Park/Maitland area and is a graduate of the University of Central Florida.

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