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In Tampa Bay, Florida Republican Rick Scott unveils bill to fight opioid epidemic

The senator announced the bill alongside law enforcement officials from the Tampa Bay area.
Sen. Rick Scott and other law enforcement leaders from in and around Tampa Bay spoke to media Tuesday about a bill aimed at curbing the opioid epidemic.
Sen. Rick Scott and other law enforcement leaders from in and around Tampa Bay spoke to media Tuesday about a bill aimed at curbing the opioid epidemic. [ Michaela Mulligan ]
Published Aug. 16|Updated Aug. 16

LARGO — Thirteen area law enforcement officials served as a backdrop to Sen. Rick Scott as the Florida Republican introduced a bill aimed at curbing the opioid epidemic in the country during a stop in Tampa Bay Tuesday.

Called the “End Fentanyl Package Act,” the legislation would do four things, Scott told members of the media.

First, the bill would allow healthcare providers to prescribe an “overdose-reversing drug,” he said. Second, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice would be able to issue grants to local governments in order for them to improve the tracking of opioid-related overdoses.

In addition, the Justice Department could issue grants to communities with high rates of drug overdoses to better trace the sources of the drugs and to train officers on how to identify overdoses, Scott said. The bill would make the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy a Cabinet member in the White House to encourage collaboration between federal agencies.

Before addressing the media, Scott spent more than an hour speaking with the Florida law enforcement leaders in attendance about opioids in their communities.

The bill’s introduction comes about a month after a rash of fentanyl overdoses rocked a rural county in Florida’s Panhandle and killed nine people. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid 50 times stronger than heroin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The following week, seven people were hospitalized in Tampa after police found them unresponsive from overdoses believed to be related to fentanyl.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri also spoke, expressing the need for better policies surrounding the opioid crisis.

About 1,300 people have died from opioid overdoses in Pinellas County since 2019, he said. In the same time frame, the Sheriff’s Office and first responders have administered 8,000 doses of Narcan — a branded version of naloxone medication used to reverse an opioid overdose.

At the core of the crisis are the people who are addicted and dying from overdoses, Gualtieri said. He called them victims of poor policies and laws.

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