Florida Governor Reinstates Office of Drug Control in Light of Growing Opioid Crisis
July 19, 2019
When some people think of Florida, they might first think of white sand beaches, palm trees, or even Disneyworld. Known as the Sunshine State for its warm weather and back-to-back sunny days, Florida is a tourist destination for most, and even a place to retire to. And while Florida is all of these great things and more, it is still a state that is facing an unprecedented amount of fatal opioid overdoses. More and more people living in Florida are abusing opioids, becoming addicted to them, and many times paying in their lives because of them. In a time where a large part of the focus is on pointing the finger at who is to blame for the opioid crisis, the Governor of Florida is working to restore areas of the state’s government that can serve as “boots on the ground” in this war with opioids.
Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL), has reinstated the Office of Drug Control in a response to the dire need for resources to fight the opioid epidemic. Originally enacted by former Governor Jeb Bush in the late 1990s, it was one of the very first things that Governor Rick Scott dismantled when elected into office in 2011. Despite efforts to call on Gov. Scott to put the office back together in the wake of the opioid crisis, he never did. Now, just months after being named Governor, Gov. DeSantis has brought a piece of the Bush-era office back. He says of the office, “The importance of restoring its functions couldn’t be more obvious given the circumstances before us,” he said while speaking in Seminole County.
The Office of Drug Control will work in unison with a state task force led by Attorney General Ashley Moody. The overarching goal of this partnership is to help reduce and eventually end the opioid epidemic in Florida. To do this, the Office of Drug Control will work to gain resources designed to minimize Florida’s opioid crisis. According to Gov. De Santis, the opioid epidemic has “devastated families and communities throughout our state,” and that “these issues require serious, comprehensive action”.
Florida Secures More Funding
In addition to putting back together the Office of Drug Control and establishing a specialized task force, the state of Florida has also received an extra $26 million in federal funding for its opioid response project. This is especially good news for healthcare professionals in the area who care for those suffering opioid overdoses on a regular basis. Dr. Gary Goodman, who is an emergency medicine physician working in Seminole County, explained that caring for these individuals is not always as simple as it might seem, and any help they could get would be greatly appreciated. “If they can give us an opportunity to take care of patients in Florida a lot better, it’s going to make our days a lot easier and patient survival a lot better and a lot higher.”
The Opioid Crisis in Florida
In 2016, Floridians (and the rest of the United States for that matter) were shocked to learn that a whopping 2,664 opioid-related deaths occurred in the state — and all within the first six months of the year. Today, 25.1 persons out of every 100,000 Floridians die from an opioid overdose. For many, the one opioid that eventually ends up causing their overdose in fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 100 times more potent than morphine.
Between January and June of 2017, 35% of all opioid overdoses in one county in Southwest Florida were caused by fentanyl. Within that very same period of time in 2018, fentanyl was responsible for an astonishing 85% of all opioid overdoses. These statistics certainly represent the hardest hit of areas in Florida, however, put a spotlight on just how prevalent the opioid crisis is throughout the state.
One of the reasons why opioids are gripping Florida in the manner in which they are is that roughly 60 prescriptions for painkillers are written per every 100 people. That number is higher than the national average, which is 58.7 painkiller prescriptions per 100 people. Other causes for the influx in opioids, especially fentanyl, include illegal distribution of prescriptions through pill mills and the location of the state itself. With more than 24 ports of entry, including one in Melbourne, opioids are easily brought into the country from other parts of the world.
With Gov. DeSantis putting the Office of Drug Control back into action, the hope is that not only will the overflow of opioids in the state get under control, but that those who are struggling with opioid use disorder will be able to receive the treatment they need in order to overcome their active addictions.
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Michelle Rosenker is a content writer for JourneyPure where she gets to exercise her journalistic skills by working with different addiction treatment centers nationwide. She has 10 years of experience in the field of addiction treatment and mental health and has written content for some of the country’s most prominent treatment centers and behavioral hospitals. Through her writing, Michelle is proud to continually raise awareness about the disease of addiction and share hope for the future. She lives next to the ocean in Massachusetts with her husband, two young children, and faithful dog.