Advertisement
  1. Florida Politics

Rick Scott declares Florida's opioid epidemic is a statewide emergency

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who visited Tampa on Wednesday, declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency. [CHRIS URSO | Tampa Bay Times]
Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who visited Tampa on Wednesday, declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency. [CHRIS URSO | Tampa Bay Times]
Published May 4, 2017

TALLAHASSEE — Four years into an opioid epidemic that has claimed thousands of lives in Florida, Gov. Rick Scott officially declared a public health emergency Wednesday.

An emergency declaration gives Scott the power to spend immediately without the Legislature's approval and for public health officials to move quickly to respond to a crisis. It also allows the state to accept a federal grant awarded two weeks ago for prevention, treatment and recovery services that will total more than $54 million over the next two years.

"(The declaration) says we agree this is a public health crisis, and we need to do something," said Mark Fontaine, executive director of the Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association. "We should be able to be more deliberate as we work with people and get them into treatment and recovery."

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 are available.

As recently as last month, Scott declined to declare a public health emergency to address the epidemic, although Senate Democratic leader Oscar Braynon of Miami Gardens called on him to do so more than two months ago.

Instead, Scott told officials with the state Departments of Health, Law Enforcement and Children and Families to hold workshops in Palm Beach, Manatee, Duval and Orange counties, which have been most affected by the opioid crisis. The final workshop was Wednesday morning just before he declared the emergency.

"The individuals struggling with drug use are sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and friends and each tragic case leaves loved ones searching for answers and praying for help," Scott said in a statement. "Families across our nation are fighting the opioid epidemic, and Florida is going to do everything possible to help our communities."

Later, while in Broward County, Scott said: "There's no easy answer on drug abuse. I've dealt with a family member, and I wish there was (an easy answer) because then I would've done it."

Scott's declaration came as the Legislature finalizes a budget that snubs some of his top priorities, like increases in funding for Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida. Amid the frenzy of budget negotiations, lawmakers in both parties commended the governor for taking action, regardless of any delay.

"The governor has the power now with an emergency order to take over the funding in that area, so that's one of the pluses there," said Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater. "I think the important thing is he's done it, and not what day or how many days did it take him to do."

Sen. Kevin Rader, a Palm Beach County Democrat, warned that the state needs to put more money into ending the epidemic,.

"Between housing and therapy, this is tens of millions into the hundreds of millions of dollars," Rader said. "And when this place takes it seriously is when we're going to really stop the bleeding from happening."

Under the emergency declaration, Scott instructed state Surgeon General Celeste Philip to keep on hand a standing order of Naloxen, used to counteract opioid overdoses by first responders in emergency situations.

"All EMS will have access to that medication," Fontaine said, "which means we'll keep people alive."

Contact Michael Auslen at mauslen@tampabay.com. Follow @MichaelAuslen.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

  1. Tiffany Carr, the former executive director of Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, left, at a 2004 news conference held by Gov. Jeb Bush.
  2. A Shoot Straight employee conducts background checks and others finish sales at the Florida Gun Show in Tampa.
  3. Florida Rights and Restoration Coalition president Desmond Meade spoke at a press conference during an event, which headlined John Legend, in support of Florida’s Amendment 4 in Orlando last October. {Times (2018)]
  4. The Tallahassee headquarter of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
  5. Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg speaks to supporters during his visit in Greensboro, N.C., on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020.
  6. The Republican National Committee sent out this mailer to a Florida resident in Tallahassee that claims to be a 2020 Congressional District Census. Democrats say the mailer is deceptive, as it's coming just before the official U.S. Census.
  7. In this Feb. 14, 2018, photo, students hold their hands in the air as they are evacuated by police from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland after a shooter opened fire on the campus.
  8. Julia Nesheiwat, Florida's first chief resilience officer, will leave her post after six months on the job. She has been hired as a homeland security advisor for President Donald Trump.
  9. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
  10. Florida House Speaker Jose Oliva, R- Miami Lakes and Florida Senate President Bill Galvano, R- Bradenton, talk during a joint session of the Florida Legislature, Tuesday, January 14, 2020, in Tallahassee.
  11. Amy Weintraub with Progress Florida (center), stands with other women during a press conference to speak out against HB 265, which would require minors to gain consent from their parents to get an abortion, in front of Florida Representative Jackie Toledo on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020 in Tampa.
  12. State Rep. Anthony Sabatini fields questions on the House floor on Feb. 19, 2020, about his proposal to ask voters to limit school board member terms.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement