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Now a National Emergency, State Lawmakers Take Aim at Combatting Opioid Crisis

August 10, 2017 - 6:00pm
Jack Latvala, Vern Buchanan, Donald Trump, Lizbeth Benacquisto and Ray Rodrigues
Jack Latvala, Vern Buchanan, Donald Trump, Lizbeth Benacquisto and Ray Rodrigues

President Donald Trump plans to declare the ongoing opioid crisis a national emergency in the U.S., making the announcement at his Bedminster Golf Course in New Jersey Thursday.

"We're going to draw it up and we're going to make it a national emergency,” Trump told reporters after being asked why he had not declared the opioid crisis a national emergency earlier this week. 
“It’s a national emergency,” Trump said, adding the federal government was prepared to spend “a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of money” on the opioid crisis. 
“It is a serious problem, the likes of which we’ve never had,” Trump said. “You know, when I was growing up, they had the LSD, and they had certain generations of drugs. There’s never been anything like what’s happened to this country over the last four or five years.”
The president's announcement comes on the heels of the Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis’ recommendation in an interim report released last month that the president immediately declare a national emergency over the matter.
The national emergency also hits in the midst of Florida losing $20 million to fund mental health and substance abuse treatment, some of which revolves around opioids and addiction prevention.
Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency over the opioid crisis in May, funneling $27 million in federal funding to combat abuse in the state.
Overdoses in Florida have reached near-epidemic proportions. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 4,000 people in Florida died in 2015 as a result of opioid abuse.
The money from Scott’s declaration will mostly be funneled into paying for medication-related treatment for substances like Suboxone and Vivitrol, which are used to help wean addicts off of opioids.
The money does not help with detox, residential treatment or crisis programs, all of which are often used to help opioid addicts recover. 
National estimates found nearly 33,000 people died in 2015 due to opioid overdose, but several reports have found even those numbers could be severely underreported, meaning the total number of overdoses could be much higher.
State legislators have thrown their weight behind efforts to crack down on opioid abuse in the Sunshine State. This week, Senate Appropriations chair Jack Latvala held a roundtable discussion in Palm Beach County to address the crisis.
Latvala said he would work to push more state money into the gap left by lawmakers this year.

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

State Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, will be holding a roundtable discussion with Rep. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, later this month to determine solutions for dealing with the crisis in Southwest Florida.

National lawmakers from Florida have also backed legislation to combat the ongoing crisis, which has left a trail of devastation in its path in recent years.
U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, recently co-sponsored legislation in the House of Representatives to beef up the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s efforts to intercept synthetic opioids like fentanyl from entering the country.
On Thursday, Buchanan praise President Trump’s decision to declare a national emergency over the matter.
“I commend the president for declaring that the opioid crisis is a public health emergency,” Buchanan said.  “We need a national focus on this epidemic.”



Reach reporter Allison Nielsen by email at or follow her on Twitter: @AllisonNielsen.



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WHERE has our legislature been these past years? This "crisis" has been around for a few years, and only now they're trying to grab headlines for doing their jobs?

Crisis of the day! What did the Dr's think hey started passing out scripts for these potent drugs? Take one for the pain in the lower back. 6 months later they need 2 for the same pain and so on. I've watched it happen.....and it was too close to home. Pain Specialists are only looking to get a payday!

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