A former South Florida firefighter has drawn the ire of his fellow first responders after he created a program that hands out narcotic overdose treatment to the general public.
Retired Boynton Beach Firefighter Luis Garcia worked in Palm Beach County during his time in service, one of the worst drug havens in all of Florida. If one were to listen to a Palm Beach County-area emergency scanner, they would find that drug overdoses take up a lot of a firefighter’s duty day.
It was these many calls that inspired the former firefighter to start a GoFundMe-funded campaign that -after giving a two-hour class- allows him to dole out Narcan to anyone who wants it.
In an interview with South Florida public radio station WLRN, Garcia has explained how the idea is not popular with first responders in the drug-addled region, and how his personal mission has cost him many friendships.
“I was quite shocked to see, when I started this, the stigma among my peers,” Garcia said. “Since my retirement, I’ve lost virtually all the friends I was close with in the police, fire, EMS, corrections, ER setting. Folks who deal with these 9-1-1 overdose victims for the most part have not been positive or encouraging of my efforts.”
To Garcia, this is simply because of the stigma behind the opioid crisis, which he refers to as a “pandemic.”
“The stigma that is common in the public also is seen in the public safety community,” he said.
During his interview, Garcia criticized the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office for not issuing Narcan.
“I’ll share an important tidbit about stigma,” he said. The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office under [Sheriff] Rick Bradshaw is the largest police department in the southeastern United States that refuses to carry Narcan.”
By his own admission, Garcia knows he can’t guarantee the Narcan will be the “second chance” that drug addicts can use to get help.
“We cannot determine whether or not this person will go into detox or rehab today,” he said. “There are many people that overdose several times before they get their act together. There are some people that don’t get their act together. But the reality is a dead person cannot recover.”
Garcia has raised over $40,115 for his cause. According to WPTV, he has handed out over 1,300 Narcan nasal sprays from when he began his program to the first week of December.
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