State Attorney announces new unit to fight opioid epidemic in Central Florida

Orange-Osceola State Attorney’s Office forms narcotics unit

FILE - This Aug. 29, 2018, file photo shows an arrangement of Oxycodone pills in New York. A $26 billion settlement between the three biggest U.S. drug distribution companies and drugmaker Johnson & Johnson and thousands of states and municipalities that sued over the toll of the opioid crisis is certainly significant, but it is far from tying a neat bow on the tangle of still unresolved lawsuits surrounding the epidemic. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File) (Mark Lennihan, Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The State Attorney’s Office in Orange and Osceola counties is announcing the formation of a narcotics unit to fight the opioid epidemic she says has worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic.

During an announcement outside the Osceola County Courthouse, State Attorney Monique Worrell said the collaborative effort is needed to address overdose deaths and prosecute those who prey on the addicted.

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“We will not tolerate these organizations overtaking our communities,” she said. “We are going to be targeting these individuals and dismantling these drug organizations for the betterment of our community.”

Worrell said the group of prosecutors will be dedicated to dismantling major drug traffickers while also offering alternative programs for those who are exploited by those organizations.

“History has taught us that we cannot use broad strokes to address this drug epidemic,” Worrell said. “Some people will go to prison; however incarceration alone has not and cannot be the only solution.”

The announcement came with a partnership from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the St. Cloud and Kissimmee police departments, who were part of the recently dissolved Osceola County Investigative Bureau.

“I think it’s critical for us to have that smaller group to then have kind of a laser focus on those plaguing our communities with drug sales, violence and everything associated with it,” Kissimmee Police Chief Jeffrey O’Dell said.

With more than 250 overdose deaths in the last year, Worrell said more needs to be done to address a growing problem that’s not easily solved.

“We understand that no one agency or entity can address this problem independently, but that we must all work together collectively for the good of our community,” Worrell said.

About the Author:

Mark Lehman became a News 6 reporter in July 2014, but he's been a Central Florida journalist and part of the News 6 team for much longer. While most people are fast asleep in their bed, Mark starts his day overnight by searching for news on the streets of Central Florida.