Bill Signed by President to Confront Heroin Crisis
WASHINGTON — Congressman Vern Buchanan said today that legislation signed by President Obama over the weekend will help fight drug abuse by funding $500 million in treatment, education and prevention programs.
“The heroin epidemic is destroying families right here in Manatee and Sarasota counties as well as across the country,” Buchanan said. “These critical funds will go a long way toward supporting community action against heroin and other killer drugs.”
The bill signed by the President directs $500 million to anti-drug program grants within the Department of Health and Human Services. These programs take a multi-pronged approach to tackling drug problems by beefing up drug abuse treatment and prevention, training health care practitioners in best prescribing practices, and improving prescription monitoring.
The funding level was widely supported by both parties and the White House.
Heroin-related deaths nearly quadrupled nationally between 2002 and 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Buchanan represents Manatee County, the epicenter of the heroin crisis in Florida. Manatee County recorded more heroin-related deaths per capita than any of the other 66 Florida counties in 2014 and is currently experiencing a spike in drug overdoses.
The Manatee County medical examiner’s office has performed a record number of autopsies this year, according to the Bradenton Herald.
“The statistics and stories surrounding the death toll of the heroin epidemic are horrifying,” Buchanan said. “We are now putting serious resources behind fighting back against the drug epidemic.”
The Congressman has been an active leader in addressing the opioid crisis in Florida. In September, Buchanan urged House and Senate leadership to provide urgently-needed funds to curb the country’s deadly heroin epidemic. In May, Buchanan chaired a Congressional hearing examining the impact of addiction on kids. Earlier this year he hosted a roundtable in Bradenton, Fla. with local police officers, medical professionals and stakeholders. Buchanan also chaired a meeting of the bipartisan 29-member Florida congressional delegation in Washington, DC where members heard testimony from anti-drug experts. Buchanan serves as co-chair of the Florida delegation. In 2014, the Food and Drug Administration and the Drug Enforcement Agency adopted Buchanan’s proposal to make it more difficult for abusers to obtain certain highly addictive narcotics.
Earlier this month, Buchanan announced his support for a bill that will fight the next phase of the opioid epidemic – the importation of fentanyl and carfentanil from countries like China into the U.S.
Fentanyl and carfentanil are synthetic drugs similar to heroin but more than 50 times more powerful. Manatee County ranks highest in the state for the number of fentanyl-related deaths, and, in Florida, fentanyl-related deaths increased by 77.6 percent last year when compared to 2014, according to Florida Department of Law Enforcement Medical Examiners Commission.