Florida health officials say that addressing the opioid epidemic is a top priority, which is why they’re embracing the introduction of a new platform in the state aimed at helping individuals and family members find the best treatment facility.
What You Need To Know
- The new ATLAS platform is designed to help individuals and family members trying to overcome addiction to search and compare licensed treatment sites throughout Florida
- The platform is run by Shatterproof, and CEO, Gary Mendell said he pivoted from a career in the hotel industry to helping those directly affected by drug addiction
- His son took his own life at the age of 25 after going in and out of eight different drug treatment centers
- Overdose deaths due to the using opioids continue to increase in Florida and across the country
That platform is a website called ATLAS (Addiction Treatment Locator, Assessment and Standards), and it is designed to provide information about treatment facilities in Florida based on location, use of best practices, types of treatment offered, accepted insurers, and other considerations.
Company CEO Gary Mendell told an audience of public health officials in Tampa that in the wake of his son’s struggle with addiction, he couldn’t fathom why the federal government had funded billions of dollars of research on drug addiction, but all of that data remained in peer reviewed medical journals wasn’t being implemented.
“As a father, I was destroyed,” he said. “But coming from a background in business, I saw an opportunity.”
Among those also speaking at the event was Al Kinkle, a 78-year-old Fort Myers resident who has devoted his life to helping those with addiction issues following the death of his 35-year-old daughter Kimmie to a heroin overdose in Palm Beach in 2015.
He says it was worth his time to make the drive to Tampa to speak at the event.
“You have to have a big megaphone with the fentanyl crisis we’re in,” Kinkle said. “We have to take every opportunity to get to the people and let them know what’s going on, because believe it or not, unless you’re in our community of addiction and recovery, a lot of people don’t really understand the crisis that we’re in today.”
Tampa Bay’s opioid overdose rate of 23.3 per 100,000 population is nearly 10% higher than the state of Florida, and more than 50% higher than the country, according to Live Tampa Bay. The group (formerly called Project Opioid Tampa Bay) is part of a statewide initiative funded by the Florida Blue Foundation to address the Bay Area’s opioid crisis.
Kinkle has created “Kimmie’s Recovery Zone,” a Fort Myers-based nonprofit organization that supports the recovery community and those affected by substance use disorder.
“We’re a resource center and a support system,” he said. “So we’ll give you multiple pathways to recovery. We’re a service — no charge, no fees. We will be funded by grants. And donations like the county just did with the building they just gave me.”
Both Kinkle and Mendell say it’s important to remove the stigma of addiction for those who are dealing with it — both said the new ATLAS web portal can help with that.
“The more we can talk about this, the more people will get comfortable with, ‘Hey, this is a disease,’ and ‘Hey, one of my family members are suffering, and where can we get treatment?,’” said Kinkle . “And we’re going to show you where to get treatment. And we’re going to change those numbers. “