The Coastal Star

Governor declares opioids a public health emergency

By Jane Smith

      Gov. Rick Scott declared a public health emergency May 3 over the opioid epidemic running rampant throughout the state.

      The declaration came after the fourth listening tour held in Duval County on May 3. The state workshops started May 1 in West Palm Beach, where many public speakers asked Scott to declare the opioid crisis a public health emergency.

      By signing the emergency order, Scott is allowing communities to draw down more than $27 million in federal grant money from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Opioid State Targeted Response Grant. Florida was awarded the grant on April 21 to provide prevention, treatment and recovery support services.

      Without the order, it would have taken months for the state to distribute the dollars to local communities, according to Scott’s press release.

      Many county leaders, including Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg, county commissioners and Chief Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath, asked Scott to declare the emergency.

“Long seen as an issue local to Palm Beach County, this declaration brings to light that this epidemic is a human tragedy not just in the Palm Beach County area, but to the entire state,” said state Rep. Bill Hager of Boca Raton.

      Delray Beach Mayor Cary Glickstein said, “I'm pleased Gov. Scott has made the emergency declaration we have been seeking. We are not yet certain how the funds will be apportioned, or whether they may be used retroactively to reimburse the city for first responder resources, or just for future expenses.” 

      At the West Palm Beach stop on May 1, County Vice Mayor Melissa McKinley said she was the first one to ask Scott to declare the emergency after an aide lost her daughter to an overdose.

      “I have also directed state Surgeon General Dr. Celeste Philip to declare a public health emergency and issue a standing order for Naloxone in response to the opioid epidemic in Florida,” Scott said in a press release.

      “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. Families across our nation are fighting the opioid epidemic and Florida is going to do everything possible to help our communities.”

      Attorney General Pam Bondi said in the press release, “This declaration will help strengthen our continued efforts to combat the national opioid epidemic claiming lives in Florida by providing additional funding to secure prevention, treatment and recovery support services.”

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