MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. -- New reports say that Manatee County is no longer the epicenter of the opioid epidemic.

  • Two years ago, 326 people overdosed in July
  • That number has dropped by the hundreds
  • At its peak, Manatee EMS responded to 6-7 overdose calls a day
  • Sheriff says that small efforts made a big difference

In 2016, Manatee County was plagued by the opioid crisis. During the month of July, 326 people overdosed from the drugs.

But now, officials are saying that the number has dropped by the hundreds.

During its peak, Manatee County EMS responded to six or seven overdose calls a day. 

"You start to feel hopeless for the hopeless," said Doug Brett, Batallion Cheif of the Manatee County Fire Rescue.

Former addicts say that they were just as hopeless.

"It's very overwhelming to look at the picture that you have created and the lies that you have been believing," said Jessica Zeilman, who overcame the addiction.

But the tides are finally shifting. This past month the Sheriff's Office reported one death from an opioid overdose.

Compare that to the 12 who died during the same time last year and 23 the year before that.

"This entire year, we're looking at about an 80 percent decline now already," said Manatee County Sheriff Rick Wells. 

The sheriff also says cutting off the supply on the streets is one reason the numbers are down.  This past year, the Sheriff's Office arrested more than 50 major drug dealers on federal charges. 

"It's been a lot of grams, a lot of pounds. It's a lot of drugs that have been removed from Manatee County," said Wells.

It's also been getting those small time dealers and users into treatment. 

"I think were getting to the point that everyone understands how important treatment is," said Wells.

Treatment centers like Centerstone and Prodigal Daughters say they need more space than ever. 

The community is getting the message, these drugs will kill you.

"We got the word out in general ... you don't know what's in the them," said Melissa Larkin-Skinner from Centerstone.

A combination of factors between law enforcement, treatment centers, and the community that without a doubt are making a dent in this opioid epidemic. 

In total, there have been 184 overdoses and 18 deaths since the year started -- a major difference from last year.