It was a typical Sunday night at Issues Lounge and Package, a bar in Downtown DeLand, until it wasn’t.

A man who had been in and out of the bar all day, drinking only water, had gone into the men’s bathroom, but hadn’t come out.

“Somebody was complaining about the men’s room stall being blocked,” said Erin Popp, a bartender at Issues for the past eight years.

Popp gave one of the bar’s regular customers a footstool so he could climb up and look over the door into the stall. Inside, he saw a man slumped on the toilet seat, turning blue.


Nearly two years ago, Volusia County Medical Examiner James Fulcher warned the County Council that overdoses were surging due to fentanyl, a highly addictive opioid drug that is 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin.

At his yearly presentation this year on Aug. 1, Fulcher said overdose deaths have slowly gone down after a spike during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Worryingly, though, the number of deaths due to fentanyl has jumped 10 percent. Fentanyl now accounts for 81 percent of all overdose deaths in Volusia County.

“I will tell you, if you’re using substances you’re buying on the street in Volusia County today, you have no idea what you’re getting,” Fulcher warned in 2021.

Fatal overdoses
Overdoses where Narcan was administered
The percent of overdose deaths where Narcan was given
The percent of overdose deaths attributed to fentanyl so far this year
— Preliminary data from the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office for 2023, through July 31

At Issues, Popp and her customer sprang into action. Like many other bars in DeLand, Issues has a supply of Narcan, a nasal spray that rapidly reverses acute opioid overdose. This would be the first time they needed to use it.

Erin Popp

“I gotta run in the back and get the Narcan, I gotta call 911, I have a bar full of people. I guess it’s essentially like triaging in my head,” Popp said. “I was like, well, what’s the most important thing here? Narcan, and then the ambulance can get here. I feel like you need the Narcan as soon as possible, especially if he’s not breathing and he was turning blue.”

The regular customer administered the Narcan while Popp called 911. Within minutes, normal color was returned to the cheeks of the barely breathing man as Narcan instantly blocked the effects of the opiate coursing through his system.

“Some people have this stigma that if you have something there that’s gonna save somebody who’s OD’ing that you’re condoning the use of drugs in your establishment,” Popp said. “But, I’d rather an ambulance take an alive person who was OD’ing than have a dead man in my bathroom.”

The person was taken from Issues in an ambulance. Popp and her customer may have saved the person’s life, but there’s no way to be sure — they don’t know his name.

According to police activity logs, officers with the DeLand Police Department administered Narcan in at least five separate cases in July.


How to use Narcan
Know the signs of an overdose: Pinpoint-sized pupils, blue lips, and unresponsiveness are typical hallmarks.
■ Call 911
■ Check for substances nearby, for safety (Forman notes there are no actual verified cases of anyone being affected by merely touching fentanyl)
■ Roll the individual on their back and administer Narcan
■ Put individual on their side and get behind them
■ After two minutes, roll on back and administer a second dose.
– Information taken from a Narcan training presentation by Volusia Recovery Alliance member Chris Forman

There’s rampant misinformation about fentanyl, Narcan and overdoses, Downtown DeLand business manager Kaitlyn Hunt said.

Hunt, the manager of Shellsea, a clothes boutique, and a part-time bartender at the nearby Wander Bar, has made it her mission to educate local residents and business owners about overdoses and using Narcan.

“Across the board, there’s misinformation,” Hunt said. “I know talking to a few bar owners, they were all entirely terrified of getting sued — liability was an issue, and insurance.”

“There’s no risk or liability involved,” Hunt said.

Florida’s Good Samaritan Act prevents that, Hunt pointed out. The Good Samaritan Act ensures that “any person … who gratuitously and in good faith renders emergency care or treatment … shall not be held liable for any civil damages as a result of such care or treatment.”

“It’s easy to get Narcan for free, and it’s easy to administer it, it’s risk-free to administer it. If you administer naloxone [Narcan] to someone that has fentanyl and opioid in their system, it essentially reverses the effects,” Hunt said. “If you administer naloxone to somebody that does not have an opioid in their system, nothing happens. It does nothing. You’re not creating harm.”

Narcan can save a life.

“I don’t think just because you do drugs, you deserve to die,” Hunt said.

A graph provided by the Volusia County Medical Examiner’s Office shows the spike of overdose deaths during COVID-19, and how overdoses have overtaken motor vehicle accidents since 2017. During an Aug. 1 presentation to the Volusia County Council, Medical Examiner James Fulcher told the council while the drop was good news, the bad news was the share of overdose deaths due to the highly potent opioid fentanyl had risen 10 percent, to 81 percent of all deaths due to drug overdose.


According to preliminary data provided by the Volusia County Sheriff ’s Office, Narcan has been used in 743 reported overdose cases so far this year. At 26.6 percent of those who have deployed Narcan — the second-highest percentage, behind only the Volusia County Fire Department at 33.7 percent — is the public.

Not only people who believe they have drug users in their life should have Narcan on hand, attendees were told at a recent training at The Neighborhood Center of West Volusia.

“I tell people, it’s not for you — it’s for someone else. Do you go to the gas station? Walmart?” Volusia Recovery Alliance member Chris Forman told the group.

Volusia Recovery Alliance is a nonprofit organization devoted to providing resources for recovering from addiction, including distributing free Narcan and training for local businesses and organizations.

Forman and Hunt believe every person should carry Narcan, even if they think they will never need it.

Every business should consider it, Popp said, no matter whether they are part of the nightlife of an area.

“I have friends that are in retail that have said that they’ve had people OD in their dressing rooms,” Popp said. “You don’t know what people do before they walk into your business, regardless of what your business is.”

JUST THE FACTS — A group of The Neighborhood Center staff members at a Narcan training meeting Aug. 4 listen intently as Chris Forman, a representative of the Volusia Recovery Alliance, talks about how to administer Narcan, a drug that blocks the effects of opioids, preventing drug overdoses.


Fentanyl is no longer only in the realm of hardcore drug users.

“I think a lot of people when they hear somebody dying from fentanyl, they think that person is like cooking it up and shooting it. And I think people think fentanyl overdoses only happen to hardcore drug addicts, but it’s getting mixed in with everything,” Popp said. “There’s people who are legitimately just recreational drug users who think, oh, nothing’s ever gonna happen to me. And there are kids who are like, I’m gonna try cocaine for the first time ever. I’m some 20-year-old kid. I’ll try a bump of cocaine for the first time. And it’s fentanyl.”

“If you are buying any street drugs, it probably has fentanyl. It can happen anytime or anyplace,” VRA’s Forman said.

Hunt agreed.

“We’re not just talking about the houseless population. We’re not just talking about regular drug users. We’re talking about pivotal members of society, our community, people involved and people that you wouldn’t expect, that are uneducated, and don’t know what they’re doing. They’re ignorant to the fact that they’re at risk,” Hunt said.

Fentanyl is increasingly appearing in stimulant drugs, like cocaine, the county medical examiner said.

“Unfortunately, when you look at what’s mixed with the fentanyl, about one third to one half of those cases either has methamphetamine or cocaine,” Fulcher told the County Council this month. “We’re talking about outrageous concentrations of this drug.”

Dealers may use fentanyl because a smaller amount is required to produce a high, compared to other drugs, or because it is more addictive.

“There are things that people take, in an exploratory way, or in a party way because they’re in college and want to try it or they’re in their early 30s, late 20s and looking into like jazz up a Saturday, and those who are 17 and trying to explore the world around them and experience something new,” Hunt said. “But they’re not doing it in a way that is safe.”


Andre Boren, a longtime DeLand resident, has worked death investigations for 23 years, first as a member of the Orange County Police Department, and more recently as a death investigator for the Leesburg Medical Examiner’s Office. So, when he walked into his son’s room the afternoon of July 30, he knew what had happened.

COURTESY ANDRE BOREN A SON, BROTHER, AND FRIEND — Landon Boren, 17, passed away July 30.

“He wasn’t cold to the touch. He was still warm to the touch because it wasn’t long enough. I slapped him around to get him up to wake him up. It wasn’t working. He was already dead,” Boren said. “I saw the powder between his legs. I saw the straw between the legs. So I knew what happened. I called 911. Everybody showed up, and the nightmare started.”

Landon Boren was 17 years old, well-liked at the DeLand skating rink, where he had worked since he was 13.

According to the timeline pieced together from text messages on his phone, his father said, Landon had started experimenting with cocaine about a week earlier.

“Landon was not a drug addict. Landon was a 17-year old that liked to explore and experiment with things,” Boren said.

A urine test done by the Medical Examiner’s Office showed Landon’s urine was positive for marijuana, cocaine and fentanyl, Boren said.

Boren is no stranger to overdose deaths in his line of work — the weekend before Landon’s death, he had worked on two overdose death investigations.

“It is becoming an everyday reality. When the first TV first came out, only a few had TVs. And then TV sets were everywhere. Fentanyl is the same thing,” Boren said. “Today the name of it is fentanyl. Tomorrow, tomorrow is going to be something else. But the individual is going to be the same. Your kid that just wanted to be part of a group or experiment or whatever will be dead.”

Landon had dreams of becoming a professional boxer, with his backup plan to become a pharmacist. He worked regular days during the summer at the skating rink, and when he turned 18, he would have started working with the local roller derby team, the Thunder City Derby Sirens.

Boren, who was close with his son, said about two weeks ago he noticed Landon was acting a bit more hyper, and was staying up later.

“You want to trust and believe your kid, and your kid can look at you in the eyes and tell you that ‘I’m not doing anything, don’t worry about me,’ while at the same time he’s holding his dope in his pocket,” Boren said. “The bells are ringing in the back of your head as a parent when you see something. If you don’t act on it — you may wake up to a cold kid that will never wake up.”

Being on the other side of a death investigation is a nightmare, Boren said.

“When I go to a house and I’m dealing with a true addict — those people that destroy their lives and families — I know the people they love, they’re hurting,” Boren said.

For those families, it can be like a roller coaster that comes to a stop.

“All the phone calls from jail, all the hospitals, the stealing from Grandma — that’s all over,” Boren said. “With us, there’s none of that.”

“It’s not like he died, you know, after being crushed in a car accident, run over or getting a bullet — that’s a true victim. But when they suck on the wrong thing or snort the wrong powder, the real victim is the people that are left. I don’t even know if the kid knows he’s dead yet. We’ll never know,” Boren said. “I asked the universe, not to bring him back — no, that’s impossible, but give me a sign, something, that he’s OK. I don’t want much.”

Boren is keeping Landon’s phone active, he said. Friends will call and leave messages. He’s leaving Landon’s room the same, the posters of emo rock bands still on the walls.

“The day you go through the hell that I’m going through now with my family, you’ll realize that you want to keep things as is,” Boren said. “Every day you will look at your watch like, hey, you know that’s usually the time he would be home. You go to bed and all of a sudden you hear cracks and noises in the house, and you’re wondering if that’s not his spirit or his soul out there that’s like, ‘Hey, today I’m gonna f**k with Dad — I’m gonna walk in my house and be a ghost and see how he reacts to that’ — just to be a kid like he was.”

If reading about Landon’s death helps one person, Boren said, then telling about it has done its job.

“Everybody’s so concerned about the numbers going up, all the kids dying and people dying,” Boren said. “It’s like a number game; it’s like, how high does that number need to get for people to really care about it?”

This year, Florida decriminalized fentanyl testing strips used to test drugs before using them. Narcan is available over the counter, and is also being provided by local organizations, including the Volusia County Department of Health.

“If testing strips were widely available at key points through Downtown or key points throughout Volusia County, no cost, and you could just go get them, that would be incredible. I think that would cut down overdoses tremendously,” Hunt said.

Right now, Hunt is working with other Downtown DeLand businesses to arrange an open-invite training for Narcan in December. But even starting the discussion can be pivotal.

“If we can just start those conversations Downtown, I think it would make such a difference. If you’re going to try drugs, test them. If you’re out and about, know that you should carry Narcan for people around you,” Hunt said.

Where to get more information
■Volusia Recovery Alliance — Provides free training, supplies and support groups.
■Volusia Department of Health — Free Narcan kits, no appointment necessary at local clinics:
■1845 Holsonback Drive, Daytona Beach
■775 Harley Strickland Blvd., Suite 110, Orange City
■Project Opioid — Orlando-based nonprofit with information, training and free Narcan kits.


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