Governor Rick Scott has declared a Public Health Emergency and directed the state government to act to curb Florida's opioid epidemic.
The move comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declared a national opioid epidemic. It also follows repeated calls from state lawmakers and local leaders due to the increasing numbers of death by overdose.
The Governor’s Office says the emergency order “will allow the state to immediately draw down more than $27 million in federal grant funding… which was awarded to Florida on April 21 to provide prevention, treatment and recovery support services. Without the order, it would have taken months for the state to distribute these funds to local communities.”
In addition, the order gives first responders immediate access to the drug Naloxone – sold under brand names like Narcan - for treating opioid overdoses.
In February, Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay and Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon sent separate letters to the governor requesting an emergency. Other local government leaders have joined in with similar requests.
Last week, Braynon said he didn’t understand what the governor was waiting for. “When I wrote the letter I fully believed that he would declare a state of emergency because I thought that the circumstances existed if I look back at all of his other state of emergencies,” Braynon said. “If I look at something like Zika - people were not dying. But it was a health emergency because it could have put a strain on the health resources of the state of Florida. And that's exactly what this opioid crisis is doing.”
Three days of community workshops are underway in Palm Beach, Manatee, Duval and Orange counties. The governor requested the workshops to get input on ways to fight opioid abuse. “They have gotten a lot of feedback this week and we will continue to look at additional ways we can fight this national epidemic which has taken the lives of many Floridians,” Scott said.
An estimated 4,000 people died in Florida last year from opioid overdoses.
You can read the full executive order here: