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July 25, 2017
Overwhelmed by Overdoses
Since 2015, there have been 392 opioid-related deaths in Pinellas County. Unfortunately, the numbers are rising.

The average 9.7 deaths-per-month in 2015 has almost doubled to 17 deaths-per-month in 2016 and so far in 2017, which means a 78-percent increase in opioid-related deaths from 2015 to 2016.

This information, obtained from the Pinellas County Medical Examiner's Office, albeit staggering, does not reflect the average 150.3, 186.3, and 209.7 patients-per-month in 2015, 2016, and 2017, respectively, whom Pinellas County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) has treated with Naloxone.

Naloxone, commonly referred to as "Narcan," is an "opioid antagonist." The nasal spray, once administered, counters the effects of overdose and puts patients into immediate opioid withdrawal.

Sometimes referred to as the "miracle drug," Narcan has, arguably, prevented another 5,296 overdose deaths since 2015.

The question: Why has the number of overdoses increased so drastically during the past few years?

The answer: fentanyl

Fentanyl, which hit the Pinellas County drug scene in the early 2000s but has become prevalent within the last six to eight months, is a powerful synthetic opioid similar to, but 80- to 100-times stronger than, morphine. To put this in perspective, the estimated lethal dose of fentanyl in humans is 2 milligrams. A one-gram sugar packet would contain up to 500 lethal doses.

When law enforcement eradicated the rampant "pill mills" that distributed drugs like oxycodone a few years ago, addicts turned to heroin - and now, fentanyl - to satisfy their addictions.

Although some drug-users choose to take fentanyl due to its accessibility - available for purchase on the dark web - and its cheaper, "cleaner" high, as described by informants, many addicts ingest the drug unintentionally.

"I think the biggest thing is that dealers are cutting their illegal drugs with the fentanyl to create more product at a cheaper price," said Narcotics Division Sergeant Jose Camacho. "That affects the addicts, because they're taking the same amount they usually take, but now with the fentanyl added, it creates a deadly cocktail, and they overdose and die."

This clandestine mixture puts at risk not only drug-users, but also deputies. When undercover detectives purchase narcotics - be they cocaine, heroin, Xanax, etc. - there is no longer a guarantee that is all they receive. Because fentanyl is transdermal, even touching the substance can result in dangerous side-effects.

"The biggest thing for us is evidence collection," said Narcotics Division Sergeant Matthew McLane. "The testing, how it's packaged, and how it's dealt with out there is where we're making changes."

Likewise, patrol deputies who pull over drivers for as minimal an offense as a traffic stop could potentially come into contact with airborne powder containing the drug.

"We don't have an opioid tolerance," said Narcotics Division Sergeant Joleen Bowman. "So it takes such a small amount for us to have a chemical, lethal reaction."

Aside from staying informed and raising awareness about the issue, there is little community members can do to help eliminate the epidemic.

If citizens know friends or family members who purchase any type of drug off the streets, they should warn them about the potential dangers of fentanyl inclusion.

Citizens must be even more cautious around any white, powdery substances they encounter and should call law enforcement immediately if they do.

Simply put, the best thing the community can do to help the problem is "just say 'NO' to drugs."

Even from law enforcement's perspective, attacking the fentanyl epidemic is different from taking down its predecessors.

"From a Narcotics (Division) standpoint, if we hear or get results back from things saying they're fentanyl, we try to attack those as hard as we can right away, because we know that this is going to kill people, and it's going to kill them fast if we don't do our best to get the source," Sergeant Camacho said.

Because the drug is primarily shipped from overseas, there are no "fentanyl mills" to target.

K9s are unable to detect the drug, because it is equally lethal to them.

"There is no hub. We have to figure out how and where it's coming in, and that's always going to change." Sergeant Bowman said. "So it's going to be a process to learn how to get one step ahead on this one, but we're definitely trying to get there."
Improving Infrastructure
If you were to walk through the wall-less interior of the Pinellas County Jail's new Facility and Purchasing Warehouse, passing power tools, blueprints, ladders, and rubble, you may think there is a long way to go. While you'd be correct, to Moss Construction Company and the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, it is something to celebrate. 

So, that they did Friday, July 14th, at Moss's "topping-out party," which featured raffles, giveaways, and  barbecue favorites from Holy Hog BBQ. An industry standard practice, the topping-out party marked the exterior's completion in the Pinellas County Jail's "Campus Improvement Project."

The project, paid for entirely with Penny for Pinellas funds, includes construction of two new facilities, new utilities, building renovations, and campus-wide security upgrades.

"The benefit is new infrastructure," said Department of Detention and Corrections Sergeant Pauline Hawthorn, who has worked as the project liaison since its inception. "We don't just want these upgrades, they're necessary." 

The existing infrastructure for food services and laundry services are predominantly original equipment from the late 1970s and early 1980s. A large majority of the equipment has fully depreciated in value, and many pieces require continual repair.
The first of the two new buildings is a 63,000-square-foot Facility and Purchasing Warehouse, where the PCSO Purchasing Division will stock uniforms and other supplies. The building will also provide space for Pinellas County Real Estate Management, archive storage, command bus parking, facilities management operations offices, and a Corrections Response Team training area, complete with mock cells for hands-on, scenario-based training. 

The 73,000-square-foot infrastructure building will include a  new central energy plant, inmate programming and worker processing, and updated laundry and kitchen facilities.

The security upgrades will streamline deputy training by establishing the same software and controls in every wing of the jail. It will also establish a hierarchy of power, through which different areas can relinquish power to a master control center that will have the capability to control the entire campus in the case of an emergency. 

The new construction's projected completion is Spring 2018, and the remainder of the facility upgrades and renovations should be completed by 2019.

At the topping-out party, the Moss project manager lead jail leaders and command staff on a tour through the new facilities, detailing progress, setbacks, and next steps. 

"It's pretty exciting for us," Sergeant Hawthorn said. "It has been a huge collaborative effort between Pinellas County Real Estate Management, Moss Construction, and the Sheriff's Office. Everyone has worked very hard, and the final product is going to make it all worth it."

"This bi-weekly newsletter is another step in my effort to give interested residents the most up-to-date information about services and programs here, at the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.


I value your feedback and look forward to continuing our dialogue about public safety."

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Find PCSO!
The Sheriff's Main Office
10750 Ulmerton Road
Largo, FL 33778

The Sheriff's North District Office
737 Louden Avenue
Dunedin, FL 34698

For Non-Emergencies
(727) 582-6200
Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)

Key Qualifications:  
-State of Florida LPN License
-CPR - BLS or ACLS Certification
-State of Florida IV Certification and NAPINES certification classes, or a college pharmacology course transcript having attained a "C" or better
General Info:
LPNs work in the Department of Detention and Corrections at the Pinellas County Jail, evaluating inmates and providing necessary nursing care. Potential responsibilities include administering medications, triaging inmates for sick call, providing for inmates' emotional and physical comfort and safety, maintaining logs and preparing statistics, responding to emergencies, etc.
This position's pay has increased since last posted, and it offers potential experience pay and signing bonus.
For further details about the open LPN position, see the full job description 

To apply or view other PCSO job openings, visit our Current Openings page on pcsoweb.com
Discovery Day
Just in time before the new school year starts, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office is hosting a day of educational entertainment to teach children about law enforcement in their community. 

The first program of its kind at the sheriff's office, Discovery Day will be from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, August 5th, at the Sheriff's Administration Building in Largo, and is open to children ages 8 to 13. 

Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who himself knew that he wanted to go into law enforcement at a very young age, launched the program after receiving feedback about the Sheriff's Teen Citizens Academy.

"We launched the Sheriff's Teen Citizens Academy a few years ago and have had a lot of success with it," Sheriff Gualtieri said. "But as we're out there (in the community), we hear from parents with children who have a lot of interest in law enforcement but aren't old enough for the teen program."

The 52 attendees, selected on a first-come, first-served basis, will be separated into groups that will circulate through four hands-on learning stations like vehicle demonstrations, mock crime scene investigations, etc.

"We want to keep them moving and engaged," said Community Programs Manager Ricky Butler. "We're adding components so that they're not only going to learn about law enforcement, but they can also take away some personal safety experiences and walk away having had a positive interaction with law enforcement officers."

Click HERE to register for Discovery Day.
Community Service Awards
On Saturday, March 11th, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri hosted a Community Service Awards Ceremony to recognize several Neighborhood Watch members and outstanding citizens who have gone above and beyond their calls of duty. He presented Leadership Awards to people who have taken the initiative and led others to success, Crime Prevention Awards to individuals who performed a specific action or reported a situation that substantially assisted deputies in solving a crime, and a Good Samaritan Award to an individual who contributed to saving a life.
Terrance McAbee
Leadership Award

Terrance McAbee started working with the Homeless Empowerment Program (HEP), founded by his aunt, when he was a teenager. As he grew, so did his dedication to the organization, and today, he is HEP's president and CEO. 

Throughout his time with the organization, Terrance has remained steadfast in his dedication to its mission of helping the homeless, low-income families, and veterans receive food, clothing, and support. 

Since he became CEO, HEP has developed into a four-star charity, as rated by Charity Navigator, and in recent years, it has helped thousands of families and individuals get basic necessities like food, health care, and shelter. 
T.J. Sutton
Leadership Award

As president of the Suncoast Brotherhood Motorcycle Rights organization, T.J. leads the group in fundraising efforts targeted at the Highpoint Neighborhood Family Center in Largo.

T.J. has incorporated the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office in its fundraising efforts: When the organization purchased bicycles and helmets for Highpoint children, they organized a bike-safety demonstration with deputies. When the members bought Kindle Fire tablets for children, they invited the PCSO to present to children about Internet safety.

Under T.J.'s leadership, the group has instilled a sense of belonging and worth in countless Highpoint children.