Osceola task force uses drug money to fight opioid crisis

State Attorney Ayala, Osceola authorities discuss efforts Friday

By Emilee Speck - Digital journalist

OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. - State Attorney Aramis Ayala and Osceola County law enforcement officials have announced a new way to fund efforts to curb the opioid epidemic.

The Osceola County Investigative Bureau, or OCIB, is a task force that investigates vice, narcotics and organized crime. In partnership with the Osceola Orange State Attorney’s Office, the bureau consists of agents from the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office, Kissimmee Police Department and the Saint Cloud Police Department. Through their investigative and enforcement efforts OCIB, is able to seize funds in certain cases.

"The OCIB Charitable Contribution Committee was developed in an effort to distribute the seized funds taken from mostly drug dealers, in a way that can best serve our community, to include providing funds to drug treatment facilities in order to help citizens recover from drug addiction," according to a news release.

Osceola County Sheriff Russ Gibson, Kissimmee Police Chief Jeff O’Dell, St. Cloud Police Chief Pete Gauntlett and State Attorney Aramis Ayala held a joint news conference Friday, discussing how seized funds will be used to combat illegal narcotics and the opioid crisis. 

"How ironic that we're using their monies to help these people who are depending on these drugs," Osceola County Sheriff Russ Gibson said. "And, so if we can do that for one person ... it is worth it."

According to a 2016 a report from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, there were more than 5,700 opioid-related deaths in the state, a 35 percent increase over 2015, officials said.

Authorities announced they would be using money seized during OCIB investigations to fund local addiction-treatment centers. Several representatives from health centers were present to receive checks from Osceola authorities and the state attorney.

"It's makes us very productive," Ayala said. "But when we're providing these funds to drug treatment facilities to help citizens recover from drug addiction, like I said this is a win for everyone. It truly is a win win."

Aspire Health Partners was one of those centers recieving a $10,000 check Friday.

Todd Dixon, development director of Aspire, said the growing number of people coming in with heroin addictions means the center is always full.

Dixon said Aspire Health helps everyone "from pregnant and post-partum mothers to older adults who are dealing with medication mismanagement or the effects of alcohol mixed in with their drugs."

He said because the organization is always in need of funding, every little bit helps.

Gibson said some of the seized drug money would also go toward purchasing more of the overdose reversal drug, Narcan, for use by deputies.

"It's almost a daily occurrence when one of our deputies in Osceola County (has) to respond to an overdose and tragically, sometimes a death," Gibson said.

Copyright 2018 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.