County at center of opioid crisis sees dramatic decline in deaths, overdoses

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. -- The U.S. Attorney General is singling out Manatee County, praising the county's crackdown on opioid dealers should be the example for the country. 

The Manatee Sheriff's Office is cracking down on opioid dealers like never before and they're now focusing on helping users, offering treatment instead of handcuffs. 

"When you're addicted to something, you lose who you are," said Joshua Fletcher. 

Fletcher's dark path into drug abuse started at just 8-years-old. A spinal injury later hooked him on Oxycontin. 

"I sank to some of the lowest lows in my life and once the Oxycontin started to wear off, that's when I got hooked on heroin."

Fletcher, seven years sober, now helps others through their recovery at Bradenton's Centerstone of Florida Addiction Center. 

The treatment center says they find hope in new statistics showing a dramatic improvement in the opioid crisis. 

In a tweet Friday night, Sheriff Rick Wells reports his agency responded to 166 overdoses so far in 2018. Down from 881 at the same time last year. 

Additionally, there have been only 18 overdose deaths this year versus 85 in 2017. 

"Nothing is better than hearing that we're actually making a difference and a huge difference at that," said Samantha Kolb, Centerstone's director of addiction programs. 

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