Clay County

Coronavirus: Overdoses up by 58% in Clay, Duval counties, health experts find


Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the focus was on the opioid epidemic. But health experts say it’s still here, and has even gotten worse thanks to the effects of COVID-19.

LSF Health Systems says overdoses have risen by 58% compared to this time last year, according to data compiled from the Florida Department of Health, the Governor’s Office and the medical examiner’s office.

Jennifer Hornak never got a chance to say goodbye to her son, Quincy. Hornak says the 31-year-old died of an overdose back in July.

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“All I could do was scream no, like a hundred times over and over as loud as I can, and my life was changed at that moment forever,” Hornak said.

“Opioid use disorder is very different from any other types of drug addiction,” she added, saying, “their body craves it just like air.”

It had been an uphill battle, Hornak says: Quincy had been trying to kick his heroin addiction for the past decade.

“He made calls and calls until he got himself into rehab a second time, he wanted to live,” she explained.

According to LSF Health Systems in Florida, Quincy was one of many struggling with addiction.

“It’s a very disturbing trend and unfortunately projected that it’ll go even higher as the months ensue looking forward,” Dr. Christine Cauffield, CEO of LSF Health Systems said.

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She says it’s just one more way COVID-19 has caused unrest in the lives of many.

“It’s the perfect storm,” Dr. Cauffield added. “We’ve had unemployment and loss of jobs due to the pandemic... it has been such a struggle for those that live with disorders and mental health challenges and we’re seeing the consequences and they’re not good ones.”

Dr. Cauffield attributes it to pandemic-related isolation and lack of connection, which then causes depression and feelings of hopelessness among people. At that point, she says, some of them turn to their vices.

“These are very normal reactions to very unprecedented times. Unfortunately some people are choosing unhealthy coping mechanisms such as drugs,” Dr. Cauffield said.

It’s something Hornak wishes Quincy could’ve overcome. She tells Action News Jax she will miss his smile.

“He loved everybody, he loved family, more than anything,” she said. “I miss talking to him. I miss seeing him happy when he was succeeding.”

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Through Hornak’s immense pain and suffering, she’s found a new purpose: to raise awareness and hopefully prevent what happened to her son from happening to others.

“I don’t want anybody else to have to go through this. It’s the most crucifying pain you will ever face in your whole life,” Hornak added.

If you’re struggling or you know of someone who needs help, LSF works with 60 organizations that can help people in tough times. Visit this link for more.