Voicing the Silent Epidemic: Dr. Gary Martin, Former Detective and Founder of NOPE

Dr. Gary Martin discusses the opioid epidemic in Palm Beach County-Florida. He is a Former Detective for the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office in the Department of Violent Crimes. He is the Dean of Students at Lynn University and one of the founders of the NOPE Task Force, the Narcotics Overdose Prevention and Education, headquartered Palm Beach County. Dr. Martin has over 28 years of experience investigating narcotics related cases.

For the past 10 years, He has specifically worked with overdose deaths. Greg asks Dr. Martin the origins of the opioid epidemic in Boca Raton. “At the turn of the century there was a wave of opioids that came into our community. At the time it was by way of physicians prescribing a drug, specifically oxycodone, to patients,” says Dr. Martin. “Oxycodone really took a toll on our community. Palm Beach County was essentially the headquarters in the country for this phenomenon. People were coming here from all over the nation to get their prescription.”

Dr. Martin goes on to explain how he founded NOPE after he realized that law enforcement was not preventing overdose deaths from opioid addiction. “There was previously not a great deal of scrutiny dedicated to these cases. We designed the Overdose Suppression Project in the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office for further investigation. Every single overdose death was reviewed by a team of investigators to make sure there was no criminality,” says Dr. Martin. “The second part of the project was research. Not only were we looking at every single overdose death in the county, we were also gathering data on each case that happened. The last part of the project had to do with public awareness and public education. That is where the NOPE Task Force comes in.”

Unfortunately, outside of emergency services, medical professionals and families personally affected by opioids, not many know of the current opioid epidemic. Dr. Martin discusses how the NOPE Task Force works to increase public awareness of the epidemic. “It just never made the news. It was a silent epidemic, if you will,” says Dr. Martin. “In order to prevent future tragedy, we needed to get the word out. So we teamed up with families and saw the schools as the best venue for getting this word out. NOPE Task Force is still active today.”

NOPE Task Force has been presenting its touching and encouraging message to schools since 2004. Dr. Martin touches on the program’s effectiveness. “It is hard to demonstrate that we have changed behavior. What we are able to demonstrate is that we have changed people’s level of awareness and people’s perceptions and attitudes about certain key issues,” says Dr. Martin. “Would you be willing to call 911 if you were at the scene of an overdose? We ask the audience this question when we come in and at the end of our presentation to demonstrate if we have impacted their attitudes in a positive direction.”

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