Rick Scott declares Florida opioid epidemic a public health emergency

Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed an executive order Wednesday declaring the opioid epidemic a public health emergency in the state of Florida.

The emergency order allows the state to expedite the use of $27 million in federal funds for opioid addiction treatment and prevention, which was awarded to the state via HHS' Opioid State Targeted Response Grant April 21. Without the declaration of public emergency, the funds would have reportedly taken months to be distributed to local governments within the state.

"I know firsthand how heartbreaking substance abuse can be to a family because it impacted my own family growing up," said Mr. Scott. "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."

While the governor has backed multiple pieces of legislation designed to combat the opioid epidemic in the past, he has been reluctant to declare the drug abuse crisis a public health emergency despite appeals from local leaders in the central and southern portions of the state.

Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay, who has previously criticized the state for not doing enough to address opioid abuse, said the governor's decision to declare the opioid epidemic a public health emergency "sends a message to the legislature" to pass opioid epidemic legislation that has been stagnant in the Senate, according to a report from the Sun Sentinel.

In 2016, opioid overdoses killed 582 people in Broward and 592 people in Palm Beach County alone, according to the report.

More articles on opioids: 
Atlantic Health System to host panel on opioid epidemic 
Utah pharmacists to apply warning stickers on opioid prescriptions 
Meth and opioids cause spike in overdoses in Spokane, Wash.

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