The budget chairman of the Florida Senate is calling on Gov. Rick Scott to allocate another $20 million from state reserves toward the ongoing opioid crisis.
Calling the health emergency an "existential threat to the people of our state," Clearwater Republican Sen. Jack Latvala wrote in a letter to Scott on Monday that Floridians cannot wait until the Legislature passes the next state budget in March before more state resources are funneled to address the crisis.
Opioids were the direct cause of death of 2,538 Floridians and contributed to an additional 1,358 deaths in 2015, the last year data is available. Citing death trends for this year, Latvala cautioned that "by the time the Legislature passes a budget in March 2018, over 2,700 more Floridians could die."
"We must provide the proper financial resources to those communities across Florida that have been struggling with this crisis for many years and join together to help end the stigma of addiction," wrote Latvala, who is a 2018 candidate for governor. "I urge you in the strongest terms to continue to lead on this issue."
After Latvala's letter was sent this morning — also requesting an extension of a statewide emergency declaration that was set to expire in the coming days — Scott's office noted this afternoon that the emergency declaration was "already extended today."