Florida Governor Declares State Opioid Crisis a Public Health Emergency

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared the state’s opioid crisis a public health emergency on Wednesday amid pleas for the government to intervene.

“The individuals struggling with drug use are sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and friends and each tragic case leaves loved ones searching for answers and praying for help,” he said in a statement. “Families across our nation are fighting the opioid epidemic and Florida is going to do everything possible to help our communities.”

Scott’s declaration effectually allows the state to take advantage of $27 million in federal grant money from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for the next two years. The funds will be utilized for the purposes of prevention and treatment of heroin, fentanyl and OxyContin abuse throughout the state.

Department of Children and Families Secretary Mike Carroll told WUSF Radio that the grant money will be distributed to areas most significantly battling the problem.

“I have had the opportunity to travel the state and hear directly from recovering addicts, parents who have lost their children and professionals on the front lines of this epidemic who have been working tirelessly to help those struggling in their own communities,” he also outlined in a press release.

“I am grateful for Governor Scott’s leadership, allowing the department to immediately begin drawing down on these funds which will provide much needed resources to communities across the state,” Carroll said.

Surgeon General Dr. Celeste Philip has also been directed by the governor to keep a standing order of Naloxen, which will be supplied to EMS responders, firefighters and police to help save lives. Philip had been on a three-day listening tour at the request of Scott, and was greeted by some who urged state leaders to declare a state of emergency.

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According to the Department of Children and Families, nearly 3,900 Floridians died from opioid overdoses in 2015 out of the 33,000 who lost their lives nationwide.

As previously reported, in March, the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau for International Narcotics released its annual report, outlining that the opioid epidemic in America “demands urgent action.”

“The most urgent drug-related public health crisis within the United States remains the ongoing opioid epidemic,” it declared. “This long-developing epidemic, spurred originally by misuse of prescription opioids within the United States, is now increasingly fueled by heroin and synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, trafficked into the United States by transnational criminal networks.”

“In 2015, for the first time, deaths from heroin alone surpassed gun homicides,” the report noted.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced in February that drug overdose deaths have nearly tripled over a period of almost two decades, as an estimated 16 out of every 100,000 Americans lost their lives from an overdose in 2015, compared to 6 in 1999.

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