Monday, December 11, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: Scott should spend more to fight opioid crisis

It's no secret that the state of Florida faces a deadly crisis with opioids. Gov. Rick Scott declared a public health emergency in May, which fast-tracked millions in federal money for prevention, treatment and recovery services. But the state also has lost millions in federal money for mental illness and substance abuse treatment, and the governor should accept Sen. Jack Latvala's proposal that he immediately find state money to combat this scourge.

Latvala, a Clearwater Republican who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, asked the governor last week to extend his emergency order and spend $20 million in state reserves on services related to opioid abuse. The Department of Children and Families and its private contractors could then steer the money to areas of the state with the greatest need. When so many Floridians are dying, there is no reason to wait for January's legislative session to decide to spend more state money that would not be available until July.

During the first six months of 2016, opioids killed an average of 14 people every day. That's nearly double the number from 2010, and the crisis shows no signs of abating. Yet Florida still does not have nearly enough treatment centers, workers and beds to meet the needs of addicts. Scott signed into law this year a three-year minimum sentence for people caught with 4 grams of fentanyl or carfentanyl, which should be another deterrent to dealers. But the $10.5 million in state money that was allocated to reduce opioid dependency was far too little, and Congress has failed to come through with billions it was poised to spend nationally as part of a repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi have demonstrated before that they can act decisively to fight a health crisis. Bondi led a crackdown on the pill mill mess that produced tougher penalties for the operators and better oversight of prescription drugs. The problem is that blocking off one avenue for drug abuse produced unintended consequences. Addicts who relied on the pill mills turned to strong opioids such as heroin and fentanyl they could buy on the streets.

The governor dealt effectively last year with the threat posed by the Zika virus, raising public awareness and allocating more than $60 million in general revenue to battle the threat. As Latvala points out, there have been no deaths and no locally acquired Zika cases so far this year. Now the state senator is asking the governor to spend one-third that much fighting opioids that are proving to be far deadlier.

From the additional $20 million, Latvala suggests spending $9 million on residential treatment, $5 million on detox services and $3 million on outpatient treatment. Another $2.4 million would be spent on prevention, and the rest would go to other services. Perhaps Scott has his own ideas on dividing up the money to ensure it helps the most people. Maybe the governor also could come up with a little more money.

Regardless of the details, the bottom line remains the same: Florida has an opioid crisis, and the state is not spending nearly enough to fight it. The Trump administration and Congress should also be providing more help, but the state can't wait for Washington when so many Floridians are dying. Scott should extend the state of emergency and dip into reserves now as Latvala suggests to battle a crisis that is not getting any better.

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Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over stateís rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week wonít make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, itís obvious that Jeff Vinikís plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

It is dangerous and illegal to text while driving in Florida, and police should be able to pull over and ticket those lawbreakers without witnessing another violation first. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has lent his powerful voice to legislation th...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Editorial: Outsourcing common sense on St. Petersburg Pier naming rights

St. Petersburg officials predict that selling the naming rights to parts of the new Pier could generate $100,000 in annual revenue. But first the city wants to pay a consultant to tell it how and to whom to sell the rights. Why do city officials need...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Another voice: Trumpís risky move

President Donald Trumpís decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israelís capital has a certain amount of common sense on its side. As a practical matter, West Jerusalem has been the seat of Israeli government since 1949, and no conceivable formula for Pa...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

A tactical retreat and regrouping seems to be paying off for Hillsborough Countyís Museum of Science and Industry. After paring back its operations, the museum posted a small profit over the past year, enabling the attraction to keep its doors open a...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Voters in Temple Terrace, Plant City and Thonotosassa have an easy choice in the Dec. 19 special election to replace state Rep. Dan Raulerson, who resigned for health reasons. Republican Lawrence McClure is the only credible candidate.McClure, 30, ow...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

It has been 1,979 days since all heck broke loose in the flood insurance industry. Apparently, that just wasnít enough time for Washington to react. So with the National Flood Insurance Program set to expire on Friday, itís looking increasingly likel...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17

Editorial: St. Petersburg should raise rates for reclaimed water

Raising rates on reclaimed water in St. Petersburg is an equitable way to spread the pain of paying for millions in fixes to the cityís dilapidated sewer system. The city has no choice but to start charging utility customers more as the sewer bills c...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17