State council to Rick Scott: Bring back drug control office

Governor eliminated the office in 2011. Now, a statewide panel says Florida needs it to coordinate the state's fight against the opioid epidemic.
Published Jan. 5, 2018|Updated Jan. 5, 2018

A panel led by Florida's Department of Health concluded last month that the state should revive the Office of Drug Control, which Gov. Rick Scott eliminated shortly after taking office in 2011.

The Statewide Drug Policy Advisory Council, made up of people from nine state agencies and another seven people appointed by Scott, said Florida needs the office to coordinate the state's efforts to combat the growing opioid crisis.

Florida currently has no point person or office to collect data, for example, which is considered a critical tool to combat an opioid epidemic that changes by the week. A number of other states have statewide offices to coordinate efforts, including deeply conservative states like Kentucky that have been hit hard.

"There was consensus by the Council to reinstate the Office of Drug Control or similar office to oversee statewide efforts to effectively and comprehensively coordinate prevention, treatment, law enforcement, policy efforts and to collect and analyze statewide data related to drug use," the Dec. 1 report states.

While Rick Scott has introduced opioid legislation this session, reviving the Office of Drug Control isn't one of his proposals.

He declined to give an opinion on it, either. A spokeswoman said he "will review any legislation that makes it to his desk."

There are multiple bills in the Legislature this year that would resuscitate the office, including ones filed by  Rep. Joseph Abruzzo, D-Boyton Beach, and Nicholas Duran, D-Miami.

Nearly 16 people a day died in Florida from opioid overdoses, a 35-percent jump from the year before, and experts believe the 2017 figures were far worse. That 2016 data wasn't made available until November 2017.

Scott's bill includes $50 million in funding for the crisis, would expand the state's prescription drug monitoring program and would limit opioid prescriptions for acute pain to three days, with some exceptions.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said that the opinions of the Drug Policy Advisory Council "should not be attributed to the Department of Health."