Congressman Vern Buchanan

Representing the 16th District of Florida

Buchanan Acts to Combat Heroin Crisis

Feb 26, 2016
Press Release
Co-sponsors Bills to Boost Enforcement, Treatment, Education

Florida Overdose Deaths Skyrocket by 900% in Past 5 Years

Manatee, Sarasota Sheriffs Support Legislation

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-FL, announced today he has co-sponsored sweeping legislation to combat the growing heroin and prescription drug crisis in Florida and across the nation.

Buchanan said he will work with congressional leaders to enact meaningful legislation to stem the flow of drugs into America while at the same time intensify education, prevention and treatment programs. 

“Drug addiction is a growing crisis that destroys families and lives every day here in Florida," Buchanan said. "It requires a serious and comprehensive solution." 

Heroin is considered the most addictive substance in the world and is cheaper to obtain than prescription narcotics.

The sheriffs of Manatee and Sarasota Counties, as well as prominent area substance abuse professionals, expressed support for the legislation backed by Buchanan (see below).

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (H.R. 953) and the STOP ABUSE Act (H.R. 3719) represent a multipronged approach aimed at attacking the supply of drugs, preventing new victims through better education and helping those already addicted recover and lead productive lives. The $1.8 billion cost of these bills would be offset by spending cuts in other parts of the federal budget.

The number of heroin overdose deaths in Florida increased nine-fold, from 48 to 447, from 2010-2014, according to the Florida Medical Examiners Commission. Spiking heroin use rates are being driven by a “one-two punch” of cheap, available heroin and prescription narcotic abuse, according to Centers for Disease Control Director Dr. Tom Frieden.

Key components of the two bills include:

  • Funding for state, local, and non-profit drug education efforts for teens and seniors.
  • Providing grants for treatment and prevention to states, nonprofits, and municipalities.
  • Establishing a federal task force to develop best practices for pain medication.
  • Creating new veterans-specific drug treatment courts.
  • Reauthorizing High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Grants. The program coordinates federal, state and local law enforcement anti-drug trafficking efforts in specific, high-risk counties. According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, 21 Florida counties were designated as HIDTAs last year.  

The drug crisis is fueled by the smuggling and shipment of heroin into our countryAccording to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, over 90 percent of all heroin in the U.S. originated in Mexico or South America.

“The growing heroin addiction epidemic has touched far too many people and overwhelmed our local emergency rooms and law enforcement agencies,” Buchanan said. “We can’t turn a blind eye to this emergency as we lose more of our loved ones and heroin continues to flood our ports and the Southern border. It’s clear Congress must take swift action to counter this public health crisis.”

Buchanan said he planned to see what more could be done to address the drug crisis through his chairmanship of the Human Resources Subcommittee. “We have to be creative and aggressive in addressing this crisis,” the Congressman said.

For years, Buchanan has been a leader in the fight to crack down on prescription drug abuse. 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.

Regional substance abuse and law enforcement professionals voiced their support for Buchanan’s approach to curb the addiction crisis.

Manatee County Sheriff W. Brad Steube said, “Congressman Buchanan understands the immediate need for funding aimed at local communities as they continue their efforts to support education, prevention, treatment, and recovery of individuals addicted to heroin.” 

Sarasota County Sheriff Thomas Knight said, “Our community is at a critical stage in our anti-drug work. Congressman Buchanan’s leadership is crucial in our team effort to save lives.”

Manatee County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition Executive Director Sharon Kramer said, “Drug Free Manatee supports the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) and is grateful to Congressman Buchanan for his leadership on this bill.”

Mary Ruiz, CEO of Centerstone, a specialty hospital and outpatient center in Bradenton, said, "Centerstone is on the front lines battling life-threatening addictions and we are greatly encouraged by Congressman Buchanan's leadership in cosponsoring legislation to advance treatment for heroin and pain pill abuse. Families touched by this epidemic have a champion in Congressman Buchanan." 

Dr. Jessica Spencer, a respected substance abuse professional, said, “I applaud Congressman Buchanan for continuing to lead in the effort to save lives and prevent drug abuse as deaths from heroin and fentanyl skyrocket in this region.”