Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Panel gathers in Pinellas to raise awareness of prescription drug abuse

LARGO — How bad is the prescription drug problem in Florida and the Tampa Bay area?

Panelists at a town hall meeting Thursday night let numbers tell the story. There was the widely reported figure of 2,488 deaths from prescription drugs in the state in 2009, which is an average of about seven people a day.

But there were other numbers, such as:

• 938 — the number of prescription drug-related deaths in Pasco, Pinellas and Hillsborough counties in that same year, which amounts to about one death every nine hours.

• 175 — the number of arrests that Pinellas County Sheriff's Capt. Robert Alfonso said came from one operation that was responsible for moving 1.2 million pills into the marketplace.

• 3 — the number of babies that Dr. Robert Morelli of All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg has seen just this week who were born with prescription drugs in their system.

Alfonso and Morelli were among a panel that also included representatives from Operation PAR, the Drug Free America Foundation, the group Narcotics Overdose Prevention and Education (NOPE) and the Pinellas County School Board. The meeting at the Young-Rainey STAR Center on Bryan Dairy Road in Largo drew about 50 people.

Lana Beck, a spokesperson with the Drug Free America Foundation, said the meeting was held to raise awareness in the community, with the hope that elected officials will "respond appropriately."

On that note, panelists took issue with new Florida Gov. Rick Scott by tossing out another figure: zero, which is the amount of money it would cost state taxpayers to implement a prescription drug monitoring program, which the state Legislature approved in 2009, but which Scott wants to eliminate.

Panelist Sharon Kelley, executive director of the Associates in Emergency Medical Education Inc., said the program has more than $1.1 million from federal grants and private donations to get started.

Alfonso, who heads the Sheriff's Office's narcotics division, said the monitoring program would be one of the most effective tools in the fight against prescription drug abuse.

"Drug abuse and doctor shopping would go down if we had a monitoring program," he said.

Among the attendees was Sally Jamiel of Odessa, who placed a number of display boards in the back of the room that called attention to the problem. Most striking were the photos of 10 children and young adults who she said have either died of prescription drug abuse or were recovering from it.

One of the photos was of her 26-year-old daughter, who became addicted to prescription drugs several years ago and spent time in jail before turning her life around. She now has been drug-free for several years.

"Drug addiction cripples a family," Jamiel said.

Richard Martin can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8330.

Panel gathers in Pinellas to raise awareness of prescription drug abuse 03/03/11 [Last modified: Thursday, March 3, 2011 11:21pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Georgia man drowned at SeaWorld Aquatica water park

    Public Safety

    ORLANDO — The water was only about 3 feet deep where Michael Stone, wearing a life vest, drowned in a water park ride at Aquatica this summer after apparently passing out face down, Orange County Sheriff's Office reports show.

  2. Bicyclist killed in hit-and-run crash on I-4 exit ramp in Tampa


    TAMPA — The Florida Highway Patrol is investigating after a bicyclist was killed in a hit-and-run crash on an Interstate 4 exit ramp early Wednesday.

  3. Cookbook review: ‘Cherry Bombe: The Cookbook' is like a friend who always has a good recipe up her sleeve


    Cherry Bombe is a biannual indie magazine, weekly radio show/podcast and annual conference that celebrates women and food. And this month's release is a cookbook, a compilation of tried-and-true recipes from women who are famous both in the food world and other industries. Think model and cookbook author …

    By Kerry Diamond 
and Claudia Wu Clarkson Potter, 256 pages, $35
  4. Beautiful Hong Kong is pulsating with life and culture



    “Ah money, money, money!" the cabdriver exclaimed with no small sense of sarcasm in his Cantonese-accented English as he waved in the direction of the spectacular skyline of Hong Kong, a city that revels in its reputation as an international financial capital.

    The Hong Kong skyline, seen here from Victoria Peak, the highest point in the city at 1,800 feet, is a sight to behold.
  5. How to pick the perfect fall six-pack of beer

    Bars & Spirits

    With each fall comes another opportunity to assemble the perfect seasonal six-pack. Of course, this is often a six-pack in name only, as many of the latest seasonal brews come in large- format bottles (with a price tag to match). That just means that you'll need to assemble some friends and family to share with, and who …

     Abita Pecan Harvest Ale: As the name suggests, this toasty amber ale is brewed with roasted Louisiana pecans. The base beer is fairly neutral, allowing the sweet and nutty pecan character to stand front and center. It drinks not unlike a liquid pecan pie — though it’s a bit less sweet, thankfully.