There is reason to celebrate a new federal report that says prescription drug deaths in Florida have fallen sharply. There is also cause for concern. Tough state laws, a relentless campaign by law enforcement and the establishment of a prescription drug database are responsible for much of the state's progress. But the failure by the Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott to fund the database is irresponsible. It has proved to be an effective tool in a war that is far from over, and its fate should not be left to the whims of federal grantors or private donors.
At the height of Florida's prescription drug epidemic, 11 people a day died from overdoses. Legislators enacted tough laws in 2010 that cracked down on pain clinics and required them to register with the state. Law enforcement took aim at pill mills, shutting them down and seizing drugs. And in 2011, the state launched a prescription drug monitoring program that allowed physicians to determine if a patient was doctor-shopping. The three-pronged attack is working. Deaths from prescription drugs are down by 23 percent from 2010 to 2012, making Florida a national leader in eradicating prescription drug abuse, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But Florida cannot let up. Ceding ground on any front could provide the wiggle room drug dealers need to regain a foothold. State law requires the prescription database to be paid for with federal grants or private funding applied for by the state. It prohibits donations from prescription drug manufacturers. If Florida truly values the gains it has made, the state should make a long-term financial commitment to the database. It is an investment that saves lives.