State Lawmakers Making Opioid Abuse Session Priority

Oct 2, 2017
Originally published on September 29, 2017 4:23 pm

Florida Governor Rick Scott is promising to make the opioid crisis a top priority in the coming legislative session.

This year the lawmaking session begins in January.  It also happens to be an election year and that means state officials are staking out policy positions a bit earlier than usual.  Governor Rick Scott—widely rumored to be mulling a US Senate bid—is calling for 50 million dollars to fight opioid abuse.

“We know that the opioid epidemic is a challenging issue that requires a multi-focused approach,” Scott says.  “That is why my proposed legislation and funding will help address multiple levels of this epidemic from doctors and prescribers to state and community programs to law enforcement officers who are the front line of this fight.”

The governor also wants to ratchet back prescriptions.

“We will fight to place a three day limit on prescribed opioids unless strict conditions are met for a seven day supply,” Scott says.  “If you think about what’s going on right now, often if you have a cut they’ll give you quite a few days of these opioids when you don’t need that many days.”

Scott’s administration has come under fire for favoring enforcement over treatment in this year’s legislative session.  While the governor signed off on a measure implementing mandatory minimum sentences for fentanyl possession, the state budget cut $11 million in mental health and substance abuse treatment. 

In August Clearwater Republican Senator Jack Latvala held a roundtable in Palm Beach County to address opioid abuse.

“Thanks to some of the reporting that has been done that we’ve seen in the last couple weeks,” Latvala said at the time, “there’s a little bit more awareness of where we ended up in the budget in the drug and mental health area.”

“And I’m going to endeavor to shine a light on that” he went on, “and see if we can get our other partners in government to come to the table with us and see if we can provide a little more emphasis on that in the months ahead.”

The loudest message coming out of that meeting was to increase funding for treatment.  Alton Taylor, who leads the Drug Abuse Foundation of Palm Beach County, was just one example.

“They’re sleeping in my parking lot—they’re all over the place.  They want treatment,” Taylor told Latvala and other lawmakers. 

“I have 200 people—200 people today waiting on a waiting list.  You don’t have to force them you just have to make services available.”

Governor Scott already has the backing of leadership in the House and Senate for his new proposal, but details of how he plans to spend the $50 million haven’t been released. 

Senator Latvala says he’s pleased to see the governor focusing on the problem and he’s looking forward to working on the issue this session.

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